69 - Dead End Drive-in (1986)
Dead End Drive-in is one of those movies with a great premise that just doesn't seem to get off the ground. It creates a unique and interesting world where economic and social collapse has given way to an oppressive government where the unemployed are treated as prisoners and everyone else fights for the scraps that remain from a once thriving society.
This sounds great in theory but like many movie of it's kind, it doesn't spend time telling us the stories we want to hear. One of dozens of threads could be pulled and create a much more interesting movie than the one we end up with. There are at least half a dozen characters who appear onscreen that you would want to follow and see where their story leads but we are forced to spend our time with a protagonist who offers us nothing.
Crabs, our "hero", is just a boring every man stuck in a crazed apocalypse. It's traditionally a good idea to have a grounded character that acts as the audiences eyes and ears in the face of insanity but Crabs is an unsympathetic bore who spends most of the movie whining about his situation when he literally brought it on himself by buying the wrong ticket for entry.
The premise of the film is that the government is rounding up the unemployed at drive-in theaters and keeping them as prisoners so they don't go out and commit crimes. Crabs and his girlfriend Carmen find themselves stuck in the drive-in because Crabs decides to buy a discounted "unemployed" ticket as opposed to spending $10 for the regular entry. During the movie their tires are stolen and he finds himself trapped in the drive-in.
The problems begin immediately. Crabs never tries to convince the owner that he is employed or admit that he bought the wrong ticket - in fact he never even brings it up! Instead of trying to make himself a sympathetic character Crabs just treats his girlfriend like dirt and refuses to talk to anyone about what they could do to escape this prison. Mostly he just walks around and complains about everything; does that sound like a fun movie?
Imagine this. Maybe Crabs has something he NEEDS to take care of on the outside of this drive-in. Something that would compel him to risk his life and do anything he can to break out of this jail. Wouldn't that create some sort of suspense and drama that would interest an audience? Well the filmmakers didn't think so, they thought you would be interested in following around a guy you wouldn't even remember passing by on the street.
This isn't even mentioning the third act of the film which introduces an out-of-nowhere racist subplot that makes us wish the movie would've ended sooner. In trying to create meaningful commentary about the plight of immigrants and those less fortunate, Trenchard-smith creates something more akin to a Klan rally than social commentary. It's a terrible turn that actually makes the film far worse.
Therein lies the problem with this movie. An amazing premise that is squandered by a sub par script and boring characters. Incredible cinematography and great stunt sequences are wasted on a movie that isn't worth a second look.