Deadline : Auto Theft
Deadline Auto Theft begins with a daring helicopter hijack. The thieves though have the bad fortune to land right where police chief Hoyt Axton is having lunch with his porn star daughter and her sleazebag husband. The hijacker jumps into a sports car and begins the first chase of the movie. We get lots of high speed and crunchy car crashes as they race down the concrete spillway that we’re so familiar with from Terminator 2, Grease, not to mention countless Donald G Jackson films. It’s around this point, with Hoyt Axton hot in pursuit and singing into his CB that I notice this whole thing is beginning to sound just a little bit familiar…
What were watching is actually the scene that was being filmed at the beginning of the Junkman – that’s right, we are in director Hollis’ follow up to the fictional version of gone in 60 seconds! This is actually kind of cool.
Axton finds himself dressing down his police force for crashing too many cars during the chase and present them with their new assignment as we cross fade to our hijackers at a very familiar looking wedding. Axton is looking for a group of hijackers that are responsible for a rash of car theft, and back at the wedding we find H B Halicki telling his brother that they’ve got a big order – 40 cars in record time… Wait a minute, what? I’ve seen this movie too!
Deadline Auto Theft is a strange remix of Gone in 60 Seconds with the addition of that early car chase and where hockey has swapped out the police chief Hawkins for the most part with white Axton‘s Detective Gibbs – complete with a whole new subplot involving his porn star daughter and scumbag son-in-law who’s car Halicki stole as part of the whole affair.
It’s a bizarre mishmash – it’s nine years later and not only has Halicki visibly aged, but his camera skills have gotten better with the newly shot footage comes off as much cleaner and slicker looking than the old footage that’s being mixed in. All the character moments are still there, the heroin scare, the epic jump, the 40 minute car chase – but now it’s been repackaged in this sort of parallel universe director’s cut that makes the continuity police in me want to tear my hair out.
In all fairness, between Gone in 60 Seconds and Deadline Auto Theft, Deadline Auto Theft is the superior production – it benefits from Halicki getting some more time behind the camera and some experience doing what he does. However, this strange attempt to re-edit and re-package his first try also has the effect of killing his career. It would be another six years before Halicki would attempt his fatal come back.
Ultimately this collection of films creates an interesting footnote as far as low-budget film making goes – but I can’t fault the man. Gone too soon, he left us this fascinating collection of movies and I’m better off for having explored them.