4.8 5
Director: Matthew Bright, Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland, Brooke Shields

Cast: Matthew Bright, Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland, Brooke Shields


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In this postmodern exploitation flick loosely based on "Little Red Riding Hood," the uneducated daughter of a drug-addicted prostitute flees the foster-care system in search of her long-lost grandmother but meets up instead with a serial killer. Vanessa (Reese Witherspoon), a nearly illiterate firebug and serial shoplifter, desperately clings to normalcy even though


In this postmodern exploitation flick loosely based on "Little Red Riding Hood," the uneducated daughter of a drug-addicted prostitute flees the foster-care system in search of her long-lost grandmother but meets up instead with a serial killer. Vanessa (Reese Witherspoon), a nearly illiterate firebug and serial shoplifter, desperately clings to normalcy even though her mother turns tricks, does drugs, and manages to ignore the fact that the girl's stepfather Michael T. Weiss has been abusing her for years. When both of her parents get arrested, Vanessa steals the car of her family-services caseworker (Conchata Ferrell) and heads up Interstate 5 in search of her paternal grandmother, who's never met her. Car problems force her to accept a ride from Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland), a youth counselor who uses charm and sympathy to get the girl to open up. Confessing the sordid details of her childhood to Bob, Vanessa is shocked when he suddenly declares that she's one of the "garbage people" and that he plans to murder her and have sex with her corpse. Bob, it turns out, is the "I-5 Murderer", who's been slaughtering young prostitutes in the Los Angeles area. Thanks to a gun borrowed from her fiancé, Vanessa manages to turn the tables on Bob, shooting him repeatedly and leaving him for dead. He survives, Vanessa is arrested, and the two meet up again in court -- with her unrepentant, even though the police disbelieve her story, him flanked by his prim wife (Brooke Shields) and the righteous indignation of the American legal system. Locked up in the juvie for psychological evaluation, Vanessa gets in touch with her wild side and eventually escapes, heading off to her fateful meeting with grandma. Although Freeway was originally filmed for HBO, vigorously positive critical response eventually earned it a theatrical release. Alanna Ubach, who portrays Vanessa's nemesis/accomplice Mesquita, would go on to appear with Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. Freeway also features two Clueless alumni: Dan Hedaya, as a police detective, and Brittany Murphy, as the disfigured lesbian who befriends Vanessa in lock-up. Michael T. Weiss, who previously appeared in gay indie Jeffrey, appears in both Freeway and its sequel, Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
Although it's framed as a contemporary retelling of Little Red Riding Hood -- replete with a trip to grandma's house, a villain named Wolverton, and an opening-credit montage of fairy tale drawings -- Freeway is actually a smart, trashy, and hilarious pastiche of the road movie, the women-in-prison flick, and The Jerry Springer Show. The directorial debut of Shrunken Heads and Guncrazy scribe Matthew Bright, the film piles up all manner of B-movie subject matter and then unleashes a future A-list actress on it. Budding star Reese Witherspoon displays her fierce intelligence in the film's very first scene as her uneducated but independent character struggles to read a simple sentence from the blackboard of her remedial English classroom. As the meaning of the words she's sounding out begins to dawn on Vanessa, Witherspoon's malleable pixie face registers confusion, then shock, then joy, then finally frustration as she realizes there's one more word to figure out. All of this takes about three seconds, but the actress then proceeds to enliven the next 100 or so minutes with the same mixture of nascent intelligence, stubborn pride, and sudden joy. Of course, the joys are short-lived in a film that finds Witherspoon's character diddled with by her stepfather, abandoned by her junkie whore of a mother, almost murdered and defiled by a psychopath, and thrown into a vile, corrupt juvenile detention center. The genius of Freeway is that it manages to milk such material for thrills and laughs while at the same time elevating Vanessa from trailer-trash joke to complex, fully realized heroine. Along the way, the film also slyly critiques America's woefully ineffective correctional and family services infrastructure and paints a desperate picture of the urban underclass. The balance between such serious issues and all-out entertainment, however, skews forcefully toward the latter. After an arch but relatively realistic first act, Bright steers his material into John Waters territory; only Witherspoon's utter conviction compensates for such unevenness in tone. Of course, there are also a number of fine supporting turns from performers as diverse as Conchata Ferrell, Amanda Plummer, Dan Hedaya, and Wolfgang Bodison. Kiefer Sutherland makes a typically shrewd villain, while Clueless co-star Brittany Murphy invests her over-the-top reform school girl with equal amounts of sweetness and grotesquerie. Bright's sort-of sequel, Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby, would stray way too far into trash-for-its-own-sake excess, but the original Freeway stands up as perhaps the most subversive exploitation flick of the '90s.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Republic Pictures

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Reese Witherspoon Vanessa
Kiefer Sutherland Bob Wolverton
Brooke Shields Mimi Wolverton
Amanda Plummer Ramona
Wolfgang Bodison Detective Breer
Dan Hedaya Detective Wallace
Bokeem Woodbine Chopper
Brittany Murphy Rhonda
Michael T. Weiss Larry
Kitty Fox Grandma
Sidney Lassick Woody Wilson
Robert Peters Undercover Cop
Alanna Ubach Mesquita
Conchata Ferrell Mrs. Sheets
Paul Perri Cop #1
Ben Meyerson Cop at Truckstop
Craig Barnett Cop #3
G. Eric Miles Cop #4
Chris Renna Doctor
Kathleen Marshall ER Nurse
Melinda Ramos Renna Female Anchor
Guillermo Diaz Flacco
Nico Petrakis Girl Gang Member
Michael Merrins Guard
Lorna Raver Johnson Judge
Annette Helde Lady Cop
Theodore Garcia Little Gumby
Manny Rodriguez Marshall
Susan Barnes Mrs. Cullins
Christine Mourad News Reporter
Julie Araskog Prosecutor
Tara Subkoff Sharon
Spantaneeus Xtasty Staff Member
Roberta Hanley Teacher
Michael Kaufman Trick
David Andriole Truck Driver
Monica Creel Twin #1
Leanna Creel Twin #2
Louis Mustillo Vanessa's Attorney
Ria Pavia Waitress

Technical Credits
Matthew Bright Director,Screenwriter
David Barrett Makeup Special Effects
T. Bird Asst. Director
Brad Boles Makeup
John Carl Buechler Makeup Special Effects
Danny Elfman Score Composer
Marc Ezralow Co-producer
John Foster Makeup Special Effects
Gerry Gershman Musical Direction/Supervision
Troy M. Gilbert Stunts
Dan Halsted Executive Producer
Chris Hanley Producer
Tom Harper Stunts
Maysie Hoy Editor
John Thomas Cinematographer
Tito Larriva Score Composer
Merrie Lawson Costumes/Costume Designer
Adam Merims Co-producer
Miss Murgatroid Songwriter
Oliver Stone Executive Producer
Alicia Rose Songwriter
Alicia Rose Songwriter
Richard Rutowski Producer
Jill Stokesberry Stunts
Nancy Thurston Stunts
Steven J Venezia Consultant/advisor
Mary Vernieu Casting
Pam Warner Production Designer
Ed White Sound/Sound Designer
Brad Wyman Producer


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Freeway 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Provocatively and unusually the film Freeway is, it is among one of the great surprises I have had in my movie-watching experience. Brutally straightforward. It gets straight to point without pulling any cheap shots. What I did not expect in this film was Reese Witherspoon's Oscar caliber performance. That was some performance. Her attitude is stirringly amazing. Reese plays so well as she easily switches around her feelings in any situation that she gets trapped into. Very interesting characters that revolved around Vanessa Lutz. Incredible story with elements of 'out of nowhere' unpredictability. Almost a feel of watching a Coen film, but Matthew Bright develops a class of his own. Whatever a prison film I have seen that involves 'making a stand for yourself', Freeway tops it. The pace is superb and right to the point. Nothing drags, nothing loses the feeling of being into it. Keifer Sutherland helped to elevate the film to another level of creepiness. A Charming version of the Little Red Riding Hood in a sick and twisted way. Freeway opened my eyes into the realm of a different landscape that hasn't been explored deeply enough before. The use of two detectives in this film is marvelously done. If there is such a great white trash story, Freeway is the it. Freeway is a perennial winner.
Hibari More than 1 year ago
In my opinion this is Reese Witherspoon's best movie. Funny and disturbing is the best way to describe this movie. The charm of the main character(Vanessa Lutz) is infectious. Although a dark movie, it is a fun movie to watch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago