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copyright ©1999-2001

flick pick | Highway 61 1991
Directed by: Bruce McDonald
Written by: Don McKellar [story + screenplay], Bruce McDonald [story], Allan Magee [story]
Starring: Valeria Buhagiar, Don McKellar, Earl Pastko

Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
comedy, foreign [Canada]
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
The verdict: / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis Barber Pokey Jones works in the small-town shop his father once owned, dreaming of a career as a jazz musician. In his quiet Canadian town, life putts along predictably for Pokey as he moves through the same old daily routines. Until one morning, Pokey finds a dead body frozen in his backyard. The locals are so excited by the bizarre event that Pokey becomes an instant celebrity of sorts. So when a strange woman named Jackie Bangs shows up in his barber shop asking him to help her disguise herself by dyeing her blonde hair red, it’s just another surprising occurrence in an already unusual day. And when Jackie tells him that the body he found was her brother Jeffrey, Pokey’s too naďve to suspect that she’s lying. See, Jackie’s a heavy-metal roadie on the run, having stolen some drugs from the last band she toured with, and the body’s her ticket to smuggling the loot down to New Orleans. Soon Pokey finds himself driving Jackie and the corpse down highway 61. What neither realizes is that there’s a dark stranger named Mr. Skin – who just happens to also answer to the name of Satan – who’s already claimed dibs on that dead body they’re carrying. Now he’s hot on their trail, determined to collect the soul that he’s contractually entitled to receive. It’s a crazy road trip that’s both a tour of the musical landmarks Pokey’s been waiting his whole life to see, and a journey of self-discovery that he never could have imagined in his wildest dreams.

Review Like the best kind of road trip, Highway 61 twists and turns in a way that’s never predictable, accompanied the whole way by a good, loud, keep-you-pumped-up-and-wide-awake rock-n-roll soundtrack. You meet strange people and find yourself in situations you never could have imagined; and though at the time, it all seems so bizarre and unconnected, it’s only later, upon reflection, that you realize that real life’s not about direct causal effects, some linear series of events that lead logically and obviously one into the other, that the random oddities that you thought just came out from nowhere do, in the end, work together to make you the unique little individual that you are. Bruce McDonald’s kooky little flick rambles along charmingly, if you can free yourself from the notion that there’s an underlying order to the universe that means that everything in it must make sense. Much of what makes Highway 61 so wonderful completely defies logic – from Jackie’s house-bound, chicken-hunting rock star friends, to two unbelievably thorough US immigration officers, to the people that sell their souls to the devil for so paltry a sum as 20 dollars, a bottle of bourbon, a bus ticket to go see a band. And then, of course, there’s the devil himself, who drives a big blue pickup truck and snaps Polaroids of his clients, financing his travels with winnings from church-sponsored bingo games. Quirky, whimsical, and full of surprises, Highway 61 is the sort of movie that’ll make you shout frequent  loud "what the heck?"s -- even as a smile spreads slowly across your face. —reviewed by Y. Sun   

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