The Lesser Seen 02: Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Roadracers’

roadracers‘Roadracers’ was Robert Rodriguez’s second film following the ultra-low budget festival hit ‘El Mariachi’. It was originally produced for TV channel Showtime as part of a series of films called ‘Rebel Highway’ in 1994.

It’s a deliberate throwback to rebellious youth centred films of the 50s and 60s and itself adopts a 1950s setting. A young rocker called Dude (David Arquette) enjoys hanging out with his best mate (John Hawkes) and girlfriend (Salma Hayek, in one her first major English-language roles). He gets into trouble with a rival gang after accidently setting their leader’s girlfriend’s hair on fire with a cigarette. Making matters worse is the fact that the town sheriff is Dude’s rival’s Dad, and already has it in for Dude.

Rodriguez certainly gets the attitude, sound, and look of the film down. Dude is never seen without a black leather jacket, greased back hair and a cigarette. And it’s clearly made with a love of the films he’s aping, with a lot of vintage cars and rock and roll music also appearing.

There’s noteworthy early performances from Hayek and Hawkes (who’s been getting a lot more attention in recent years) but while Arquette might look the part, he’s all about the look. It doesn’t help that his character is a bit of an unapologetic asshole too, granted his rivals are worse but still.Roadracers poster

There are a couple of attempts to feature more serious issues (Hayek’s character is adopted and suffers racial abuse a few times), but mostly ‘Roadracers’ is just about having fun.

This was reportedly shot in just 13 days on a very low budget, and Rodriguez’s energy and resourcefulness shows through in the finished product. It’s an enjoyable but disposable entry in his filmography.



‘The Lesser Seen’ is a feature in which I highlight a lower-profile film or two by a well-known director.


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