Alexei Sayle: Great movie, but the car is really the star

It's a good film anyway, but my enjoyment was greatly enhanced by a great bit of car casting. When the baddies, led by Ed Harris, first turn up at Viggo Mortensen's house to threaten his family, they do so in a wonderfully sinister car - a jet black Chrysler 300C with chrome trim. Its darkened slit windows, its gaping, basking-shark grille and low-rider stance, are perfect for this sombre, violent, reflective movie. I think it is not going too far to say that, just as it would be impossible to image Doctor Zhivago without Julie Christie, without the Chrysler 300C A History of Violence wouldn't be the great movie it is.

The screenwriter and film expert William Goldman says that for a movie to work, seven people have to be at the very top of their game: director, director of photography, set designer, casting director, etc etc. Yet to me, casting the vehicles is as vital as deciding which actors are going to play the parts. The fact that the people working on A History of Violence have chosen exactly the right car is a testament to the fact that everybody on the production was working in harmony. In the opposite direction, as soon as I saw John Travolta in Swordfish at the wheel of a ridiculous looking TVR still carrying UK plates, I knew it was going to turn out to be the crappy, ill-conceived mess it indeed was.

Personally, I would nominate the best "baddie" car ever seen in a film as the black Rover P5B Coupé featured in the Mick Jagger/James Fox Sixties acid gangster movie Performance. So taken was I with this car that I had my own P5B Coupé sprayed black, though I never went in for the crossdressing and the psychedelic flashbacks.

It is unusual for me to be able to sink myself totally into A History of Violence. My problem is that in many movies the central characters we're asked to identify with are wild, authority-defying free spirits who live by their own rules. My enjoyment is often spoilt by me wondering what they'd be like as neighbours and how safe they are as drivers.

I'll be happily submerged in a film and I'll suddenly find myself thinking: "Well, it's all well and good you having wild sex in the Jacuzzi to the sound of rock music in the middle of the night, but what about the people next door? They've probably got to get up for work in the morning."

Billy Bob Thornton's character in Bad Santa might well be a life-enhancing force for good, but you could bet he wouldn't turn down the music if you asked him to, or be conscientious about putting his binbags out on the correct night. If you lived downstairs from him he'd never be there to water your plants (not with water, anyway) and feed the cat when you're on holiday. And the way he drives the BMW 7-series he's stolen in that movie is highly irresponsible.

I also doubt whether the folk in the next apartment to Keanu Reeves' character Neo in The Matrix would appreciate him smashing through their wall pursued by replicants. And as for that huge chase scene in the third Matrix film, where Neo and Laurence Fishburne are smashing up all those Cadillac CTSs, I found myself worrying about the other drivers' no claims bonuses. I mean, even if all those people are actually submerged in amneotic fluid while being fed nutritious mush through a tube while their minds are controlled by an evil computer, I expect they'd still want a good credit-rating and clean driving licence.

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