Charlie and Rachel are on their way to Las Vegas to get married, and take a deserted road as a shortcut. They are suddenly assaulted by a monstrous creature, the Hell Cop, who abducts Rachel. Charlie follows him through a portal to hell, and must face plenty of dangers on the road to Hell City to rescue his fiancé.
Highway to Hell is based on one of the early scripts from Brian Helgeland, who moved into blockbuster territory afterwards, both as a writer and a director. Highway to Hell is lined out as a fairly traditional road movie, with two parties chasing each other through the desert, and visiting different locations in the process. There’s no interpersonal conflicts or cathartic elements that often are experienced by characters in road movies, the focus of the movie is pure entertainment. And while the overall plot evolution in Highway to Hell is basic at best, the witty dialogues, and bizarre places visited by the characters make more than up for it.
The setup is utilized effectively by director Ate De Jong to introduce one eccentric character after another who either tries to help Charlie or put an obstacle in his path to save Rachel. Despite a modest budget, Highway to Hell contains plenty of memorable and clever set pieces that we shall not spoil here. Roughly speaking, many places are a parodied version of a given road movie cliche. The road to hell is not a very depressive place, everyone’s in a fairly good mood despite living at the outskirts of the abyss. The upbeat vibe is also supported by an equally cheerful soundtrack.
The humor is on the quirky and off-beat side. The dialogues and acting occasionally are a bit clunky and hysterical, and add some trashy flair that fits well into this easygoing movie. There’s also a couple of nice car chases and practical special effects to add some spectacle for good measure. The move gains a lot of charm by providing a justification for throwing together plenty of anachronisms, such as Attila The Hun, Cleopatra and Hitler playing poker together. The Hell Cop is a truly great villain. Driving around in a flashy police car, while carrying slick sunglasses and a big-ass gun, he is creepy and cool at the same time.
Highway to Hell delivers plenty of laughs and action, and features some truly memorable moments. It is a simple, but original genre crossover that comes really close to being perfect entertainment.