Awfully Good: The Wraith
Sorry, Aaron Paul. You might have a NEED FOR SPEED, but I'd rather go for a ride with...
The Wraith (1986)
Director: Mike Marvin
Stars: Charlie Sheen, Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassavetes
THE CROW meets KNIGHT RIDER meets DEATH PROOF. Starring Charlie Sheen.
There's nothing I don't love about THE WRAITH. It's all the best parts of the 80s wrapped up in to one awesome package. Sweet rides, vehicular revenge, cheesy dialogue, a glorious synth soundtrack, Charlie Sheen—this is an underrated gem of the decade for sure.
Nick Cassavetes (who would go on to play Dietrich in FACE/OFF and direct THE NOTEBOOK) stars as Packard, a psychotic gangleader who terrorizes a small Arizona town. Along with the rest of his gang—Skank, Gutterboy, Oggie and Rughead, played by Clint Howard with an amazing haircut—Packard forces random people on the street to race him so that he can "win" their cars. He also spends his time threatening local hottie Keri (Twin Peaks' Sherilyn Fenn) into being his girlfriend. In fact, Packard had his goons kill Keri's previous boyfriend Jamie just so he could be with her without distraction. He even cuts himself to prove how much he loves her. Eat your romantic heart out, THE NOTEBOOK!
An overpaid actor? A drug addict? A sex maniac? An Estevez? I don't know. I'm not good at this game.
Enter: Charlie Sheen as Jake Kesey. The tiger blood bad boy rolls in to town one day, bringing with him his motorbike and "don't give a f*ck" attitude. He goes to the local teen hangout and, in true Charlie Sheen fashion, immediately proceeds to hook up with Keri. (Their eventual awkward, slobbering sex scene is another 80s-esque highlight.) He also befriends Billy, the loser little brother of the late Jamie, and together the three bond over how much they hate Packard.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA II: SON OF BURTON was a disappointment, to say the least.
Totally by coincidence, another mysterious stranger appears around the same time: a man decked out in an all-black motocross outfit sporting a futuristic gun and ghost car. (The super slick Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor prototype, which was sadly never put in to production.) He begins showing up at Packard's street races and silently challenging his men to live their lives a quarter mile at a time. Except the stranger doesn't just use his car to drive, he uses it to kill! During the first race, his car disappears, only to reappear seconds later sitting in the middle of the road, directly in front of the other driver. The competitor's car explodes on impact, then is seen intact flying off a nearby cliff, where it explodes a second time. The futuristic ride magically regenerates and drives off.
And thus began the sex symbol phase of Clint Howard's career.
For lack of a better word, Clint Howard begins to refer to the mysterious man/vehicle as The Wraith ("An evil spirit… and it ain't cool!") The Wraith repeats this deadly tactic a couple more times, taking out another member of Packard's crew at each occurrence. Eventually, Wraith gives up the slow burn and just shows up at their hideout with his Future Shotgun and opens fire. And because he didn't completely destroy it the first time, he also drives his magical car in to the building at top speed, killing poor Skank and Gutterboy in the resulting nuclear-sized explosion. And after all this death and violence, Packard shows up for the final confrontation… and decides he'd rather race The Wraith instead. You can guess how that turns out for him.
When you can't be creative with your pick-up lines, just stick to the classics.
Obviously the film ends with Jake revealing that he's actually the vengeful, reincarnated spirit of Keri's late boyfriend and Billy's brother Jamie. (No explanation is given as to why he came back in the form of Charlie Sheen.) This ending would be nice and happy were it not for two things: 1) Jake immediately tells Keri that his time here is limited, so she agrees to return with him from whence he came. I'm presuming that's now Hell, you know, because of all the people he just murdered. And then 2) Jake decides to give his little bro his awesome future car as a parting gift. Except throughout the movie, The Wraith has been chased by Randy Quaid's sheriff due to the constant illegal street racing and homicides. And now he's giving Billy the only piece of evidence that ties him to the case, in the form of a vehicle that literally no one else in the world owns. Apparently The Wraith is kind of a dick.
THE FARTKNOCKER. Coming this Fall to a theater near you.
One last thing: I would be remiss if I didn't single out my love for Skank and Gutterboy. When they're not drinking brake fluid or waxing poetic about their "constipational rights," the duo is coming up with some of the most random one-liners in cinematic history:
Whether it comes from Clint Howard, Randy Quaid or my good friends Skank and Gutterboy, these are all winners.
A little bit of everything: racing, explosions, shootouts and sparkly Charlie Sheen.
Despite the PG-13 rating, Sherilyn Fenn goes briefly topless.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- A car explodes or regenerates
- A cheesy 80s song plays
- Someone gets called "Skank"
- Someone says, "This shit's got some kick!"
- Someone calls someone "bro"
- There's a shooting star
- A metal brace randomly vanishes