While watching a movie, I'll often wonder about the film's origin. Where did the writer get the idea? Who felt so energized about this project that they helped make it a reality? (On a side note, the special features on most DVDs rarely address these issues.) While watching Throttle, I couldn't help but wonder if the film was the outcome of a wager. (Not the kind where someone lost a bet, such as Dark Harvest) I just imagined someone saying to co-writer/director James Seale, "I bet you couldn't make an action/thriller which takes place in one location." Of course, that's sheer speculation, but if you see the parking-garage bound Throttle, you may agree with my notion.
As Throttle opens, Tom Weaver (Grayson McCouch), who works for a securities firm, arrives at his office building very late at night. After chatting with the security guards, Eddie (Dan Mundell) and Victor (Jefferson Arca), Tom enters the parking garage. Dismayed that a car is parked in his reserved spot, Tom is forced to park on one of the lower levels of the garage. Tom is there to rendezvous with his business associate Gavin Matheson (Adrian Paul), and the two plan to put a nefarious plot into motion in order to rob their company of $10 million. Once the job is completed, and the pair return to the garage, Tom begins to have second thoughts about what he has just done.
However, his conscious is suddenly the least of Tom's worries. Following Gavin's departure, Tom discovers that his car has been sabotaged. As he attempts to find help in the deserted garage, he is suddenly pursued by a large, menacing black pick-up truck which has tinted windows. No matter where Tom flees, this motorized behemoth follows him, spoiling every chance to escape from the garage. As the night wears on, Tom begins to think about his wife, Molly (Amy Locane), and the deal with Gavin and wonders if the attacking truck isn't as random as it may seem. Armed with only a tire iron, Tom is determined to leave this parking haven and discover who is driving the murderous truck.
Astute movie fans will probably gather from the above synopsis that Throttle contains elements from many familiar films, such as Christine, Die Hard, Breakdown, and most of all, Duel. There's nothing wrong with a movie wearing its influences on its sleeve, but Throttle goes far beyond being a simple homage, when a character who looks just like Dennis Weaver passes Tom driving the exact same car as the one seen in Duel. OK, Mr. Seale, we get it!
Blatant movie references aside, Throttle does have some positive qualities. As noted above, the majority of the action (save for some flashbacks) takes place in the parking garage, and its interesting to see all of the various situations which writers James Seale and Neil Elman put Tom into. Despite the late hour, Tom is far from alone in the parking deck, and he certainly meets some interesting people. Also, Seale does a fine job of having the truck attack at surprising moments. There isn't a great deal of suspense in the film, but there are some nice "shock" incidents where the truck suddenly roars out of nowhere. The story does a good job of stringing the viewer along as we begin to realize that the truck truly is hunting Tom, and we being to speculate as to who could be driving it. The answer is a fairly shocking one (my wife, who always figures out the endings of films, didn't see this one coming) and it takes the movie in an interesting direction. Seale gets a lot of mileage (literally) out of the garage location and finds pleasing new ways to shoot grey concrete.
But, for everything that it does right, Throttle does something wrong. The movie is very slow at times, and no matter how Seale shoots the action, watching Tom creep through the garage is boring at times. The movie also feels padded, as Seale loves showing us previous scenes as if we've forgotten them. The shot where Tom finds a hotel key in his wife's purse must have been shown at least five times. This is meant to be the kind of film which hits the ground running, but even for this genre, there is very little character development. Honestly, by the end of the film, I still wasn't sure if I was supposed to like Tom or not. Speaking of the ending, the whole film is far-fetched, but the finale is way out there and the final line is a groaner. For a low-budget action-thriller, Throttle isn't bad, and certainly rises above the typical direct-to-video fare of which we are accustomed. But, it's still not very original and has it's share of problems. For most viewers, a rental will do.
Throttle races onto DVD courtesy of Screen Media Films. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For a low-budget film shot in a parking garage, this transfer looks fairly good. The image is sharp and clear for the most part, although there is some visible grain. The picture is somewhat blurred at times, but this doesn't happen very often. The colors look fine, and the light scenes and dark corners are well-balanced. I did notice some artifacting, but not enough to be overly distracting.
The only audio option on this screening copy of Throttle was a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This track provided clear dialogue and music, with no evidence of distortion or hissing. The garage provides the perfect opportunity for loads of surround sound, and this track delivers. The roaring track also gives the subwoofer a good workout. The track wasn't the most powerful that I've ever heard, but for this kind of film, it got the job done.
The screening copy of Throttle which I received contained no extra features.
If you ever walked through a deserted parking garage by yourself, then you've probably felt a slight tingle of fear. Throttle plays upon that fear and then amps it up one-thousand percent. The movie has some flaws and it's quite forgettable, but if you're in the mood for a fun thrill-ride, you can certainly do worse.