Open iTunes to preview, buy, and download this movie.
Scripter Jeb Stuart (Die Hard) made his directorial debut with this thriller about an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer. Politically ambitious Amarillo police chief Jack McGinnis (William Fichtner) uses a local murder to gain votes in his campaign, a setback for Sheriff Buck Olmstead (R. Lee Ermey), up for re-election. The situation looks better for Olmstead after FBI agent Frank LaCrosse (Dennis Quaid) arrives to track the killer. LaCrosse has a personal agenda: he's convinced this killer is the man who kidnapped his son. Meanwhile, ex-medical student Lane Dixon (Jared Leto), hitchhiking across New Mexico, gets a lift from friendly Bob Goodall (Danny Glover), a former rail worker who later rescues Dixon from menacing miners in a bar. Red herrings throughout conceal the true identity of the killer. Some scenes were filmed at an altitude of 10,000 feet in Red Cliff, Colorado. Working titles include: Going West in America, Going West. Shown at the 1997 Denver Film Festival.
Movie Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes
- Reviews Counted: 25
- Fresh: 8
- Rotten: 17
- Average Rating: 4.8/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Rotten: Quaid is a one-note sadsack here and no natural action hero.
Switchback. Brilliant Ride on the Rails
Switchback is not an action film. It is not a character study. It is magic realism and a tone poem of impossible grief set to modern Western mountain railroading. As such it takes advantage of the very unfamiliar world of rail sighting locations, sidings, engineers and roustabouts that work the rails to form a new and wonderful language to describe a story that is about convictions stronger than self interest. R. Lee Ermey gives a surprising, warm and nuanced performance in the role of the real hero of the movie: a man who sees the right and does it despite its almost comic costs to his self esteem and future employment. Quaid underplays the lead role as if he were a dreamer: a correct approach since he is both a "rogue FBI agent" and an everyman searching for lost innocence. As the G-man in the "story" he has gone AWOL looking for his own kidnapped son based on clues dangled by a peculiarly homo-erotic serial killer played with disturbing and refreshing finesse by Glover (his best acting to date period). As an everyman urgently trying to "come to believe" that there could be truth and satisfaction in the words of a ruthless enemy he is all of us worrying over our children in high REM sleep.
The juxtaposition of the killer and the young doctor (Leto) that has become his sidekick offers much of the narrative suspense of the film, but it is the freight railroad itself that becomes a character in the film around which all the alter egos of this detective yarn revolve and "switchback". A close watching of this directorial, editing and acting gem will show it to be more than in the Hitchcock tradition: it is an inspired flicker show. Greatly underrated and rewarding film.
The USA Today critic quoted above (Mike Clark) has some issue with Mr. Quaid. I disagree. He is just great in this entertaining movie. Enjoyable with a few twists and turns. All in all, well worth watching. A short appearance by R. Lee Ermey just adds to the fun.