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'Wrecker' winds up as road kill next to classic 'Duel'

Michael Bafaro's B-thriller "Wrecker" pays crude homage to the Steven Spielberg-Richard Matheson TV-movie classic "Duel" by pitting a pair of young ladies in a sports car against a foul-smelling giant tow truck. Less a chase picture than a driving-around picture, the movie relies heavily on long action sequences that never develop much zip.

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Anna Hutchison stars as Emily, a high-strung woman looking to forget her boyfriend's infidelity by road-tripping with her party-gal best friend, Leslie (Andrea Whitburn). While winding through a mountain highway, they make the mistake of passing the truck, driven by an unseen maniac with a pentagram dangling from his rearview. Soon, he/she/it is barreling after them, relentlessly.

Bafaro is a veteran director of low-budget genre fare, favoring stories where ordinary folks get waylaid by psychopaths. "Wrecker" shows a fair amount of visual command, best exemplified by the dynamic shots of the cars, captured in drive-bys and fly-overs. And the rumbling sound design does help nurture the illusion of motors revving at near-demonic volume.

But the script by Bafaro and Evan Taylor is way too thin, taking the basic plot of "Duel" — almost beat for beat — and populating it with two nondescript heroes instead of one. Aside from a few good jump-scares and a couple of original plot twists, "Wrecker" spends most of its running time cutting between footage of the roadster and footage of the truck, apparently assuming viewers will take those images and use them to imagine something more exciting.

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"Wrecker"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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