have been too pat and too passe had director Takeshi Yokoi (aka
Kenji Yokoi) made his hitch-hiker stranger a serial killer. After
all, any actor would have a tough job trying to top Rutger Hauer
as the hitch-hiker from hell in writer Eric Red's The Hitcher
Terajima), who has been working away from home for six months,
arranges to meet his wife, Reiko (Yuki Takeuchi), at the airport.
On the drive home, they almost knock down a hitch-hiker (Kazuyoshi
Ozawa), who had suddenly dashed out into the middle of the road.
profusely and saying that his car had broken down, the stranger
gets a ride from Toshio, much to the dismay of his wife. The conversation
between the men had generally been friendly but things turn nasty
when the stranger comments that Reiko probably had not had any
sex for a long while. This angers Toshio who stops the car and
asks the stranger to get off. While removing the bag from the
boot, Toshio is attacked by the stranger who whips out a shortgun.
by the stranger as they continue the drive, Toshio is shown to
be ineffectual in standing up for his wife as Reiko is repeatedly
raped by the stranger. Going through the couple's handphones,
the stranger also finds messages that show that the couple have
not only drifted apart but are almost strangers to each other:
Toshio is having an affair with his secretary while Reiko is not
only addicted to drugs but is scheming to do away with Toshio.
To carry out her plan, she has also engaged the help of Hiroshi
Yamamoto, who has been following their car.
the stranger is no angel. He is actually obsessed with Reiko and
had planned the entire ambush. But in one of his lapses of concentration,
Toshio stabs him in the neck but he manages to escape. Like a
bad penny, he shows up again for the final confrontation with
the couple, who need to work together one last time, despite their
While Eric Red's The Hitcher has cast a long shadow, Takeshi Yokoi's
Hitch-Hike still manages to hold the viewer's attention, especially
in the first third of the film, as he keeps everyone guessing
as to the stranger's true intentions. As the stranger, Kazuyoshi
Ozawa's slightly goofy mannerisms and apparent humility are disarming
and there is a certain relish in the way the director peels away
each layer of the seemingly convoluted plot.
beginning, viewers already given an inkling to Toshio's philandering
ways (there is an exchange of telling emails to a certain Satomi)
but their sympathies are first drawn to Reiko, who has been left
alone as the neglected wife. But then Reiko has not been idle.
The relationship with her husband might have soured but there
is always that insurance money.
told, grandly photographed and punctuated with bursts of violence
and sex (Yuki Takeuchi gets to show off her breast in the rape
scenes), Hitch-Hike is a worthy Japanese road movie, and there
doesn't seem to be too many of those. With slide guitar and sparse
landscape, Hitch-Hike best recalls Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas,
only it's more macabre and more chilling.
Hitch-Hike DVD (Creative Axa) is banned in $ingapore.