Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999)

Like an even lower-budgeted version of its own predecessor, “Freeway II” is an acidic, gritty and undeniably funny (not in a haha way, in a ‘oh goodness that’s dark’ way) comedy/thriller about the social consequences of rampant child abuse. Natasha Lyonne is absolutely perfect as White Girl, a troubled teenager with an acerbic sense of humor who, while facing a lifetime prison sentence, escapes from a juvenile center with Cyclona (Maria Celedonio), a schizophrenic underage serial killer bent on reaching Mexico for the comfort of childhood protector Sister Gomez (Vincent Gallo). As the first one was a demented retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood,” this one is “Hansel and Gretel,” which should at least give you a blueprint for where this movie is headed as it nears its climax. It’s an upsetting, humorous and often-uncomfortable drama about the lifelong impacts of abuse that’s presented as a dark comedy because it’s how White Girl chooses to look at her life, and that’s how Lyonne plays her: She’s resigned to her circumstances with a wry scoff but also striving for a spark, and when she finds it with Cyclona, all bets are off. This time around, the humor is even less “humorous” than the first movie, in that it’s used to underscore the horrors of an indifferent government that actively preys on the unfortunate (especially children) and then refuses to help put the pieces back together. By the end it’s become a full-on horror movie in a way that feels organic, like it’s simply the natural conclusion of the story because writer-director Matthew Bright’s narrative thesis has been so successful at making its case that you accept the movie on its own terms. It’s a shame that Celedonio is rather distractingly poor in the role of Cyclona, but her chemistry with Lyonne goes a long way towards selling the shared bond between the characters, so in the end, it mostly evens out. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach the idea of a deliberately ugly comedy about child abuse, then this one may be worth the trek.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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