Looking through the list of actors and technical credits, "Highway" (also known as "A Leonard Cohen Afterworld", "Trip" and I believe "Aberdeen", at one point) probably was aiming for a theatrical release at one point. Unfortunately, the film simply isn't that strong, with Scott Rosenberg's screenplay being the problem that all other flaws in the film are connected to.
The film starts in the mid-90's, where Jack (Jared Leto) is barely escaping after being confronted by the husband of a wife he's having an affair with. Meeting up with friend Pilot ("Bubble Boy"'s Jake Gyllenhaal, almost as irritating again here), the two decide to go to Seattle to attend a ceremony for late Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain (which we hardly see, even in the last few minutes). Along the way, they end up running into Cassie (Selma Blair), who goes along with them on their journey from nowheresville to Seattle.
We're then faced with a lot of chattering between the three as they drive, occasionally stopping off to be confronted by other weird, colorful characters. There's a serious problem, though; it's hard to care about any of the characters, all of whom seem about as bright as the two leads from "Dude, Where's My Car?" and remain unsympathetic throughout. With very little going on in the span of 95 minutes, it's a suprise that the film went by as quickly as I felt it did.
It's dissapointing that "Highway" didn't turn out better, as Rosenberg has been responsible for better character-driven pieces, like "Beautiful Girls". I've never been particularly impressed by a performance from Leto, but Gyllenhaal has sunk since the terrific "October Sky" and Selma Blair is wasted here, given little to do. John McGinley, currently brilliant on NBC's sitcom "Scrubs", makes a fairly limited druggie supporting character at least slightly funny, though. While the film itself isn't that enjoyable, cinematographer Mauro Fiore ("Driven", "Training Day") at least provides some pretty solid imagery. While James Cox's direction isn't particularly great, I will give him credit and say that I doubt many people would be able to make much out of a tale this thin.
VIDEO: New Line presents "Highway" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen as well as pan & scan. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen edition is certainly another of the studio's terrific efforts. It became rather routine to review New Line titles a while ago, as they've only offered the rare mediocre presentation. With Mauro Fiore ("Driven")'s slick, stylish widescreen compositions, "Highway" may not be interesting or entertaining, but it at least looks great visually. Sharpness and detail are impressive throughout, with no instances of softness.
The presentation is not perfect, but the minor flaws are not likely to be that bothersome to most viewers. A couple of very slight instances of edge enhancement appear, but no pixelation was seen. The print remained crisp and clean throughout, with only a few minor specks that seemed to be isolated towards the begining of the film rather than later on. Slight grain occasionally is seen as well, but this may have been intentional.
Colors remained impressive throughout, looking well-saturated and bright throughout, with no smearing or other problems. Black level remained strong as well, while flesh tones looked accurate. Overall, this is a really solid effort from New Line.
SOUND: "Highway" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's audio is enjoyable in some regards and comes up short in others. The rock score fills the front speakers with presence and authority, often sounding terrific. Unfortunately, the surrounds essentially go unused, which is dissapointing given the fact that the outdoor scenes could have used some ambience or other touches. Dialogue, effects and score remained clear and crisp throughout. The soundtrack is a bit more professional than I'd expected from a small film, but there's still more that could have been done.
A few slight animated transitions, but otherwise, the main and sub menus are non-animated, but still are nicely designed.
EXTRAS: Nothing. New Line also provided nothing for another recent small film, "The Prime Gig". The absence of supplements on that film was dissapointing. In this case, I don't know how much could be said about this film.
Final Thoughts: "Highway" certainly contains a talented cast and crew, but they're working with characters that have little to do or say for 95 minutes and the result is an aimless piece which drifts by quicker than I'd expected and left little impression. New Line's DVD, while lacking completely in supplements, at least offers good audio/video. Still, unless you're a hardcore fan of the stars, I wouldn't even recommend this as a rental.