Equal parts Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Johns (1997), Nickolas Perry’s debut is a sordid but ultimately uplifting tale of teen Las Vegas street hustlers. The protagonists of Speedway Junky don’t consider themselves gay prostitutes, more kids down on their luck who are only a big score away from their dream. In a cily of sin like Vegas, this is just the kind of delusion that will eat up the young.
Army brat Johnny hits the road, on ihe run from restrictive parents and in pursuit of his dream of crewing for a car racing team. With nothing but boundless enthusiasm, a few clothes and some cash tossed in a bag, naive Johnny is promptly relieved of clothes, cash and bag. Falling in with a motley street crew, Johnny is taken under the wing of ‘veteran’ Eric, a saintly type who quickly schools the newcomer.
Johnny is swiftly introduced to drink, drugs, crazy casual sex and the neon lit 24-hour-a-day dementia that is the Vegas casino strip. Eric too has a dream, to care for the well-being of fallen angel Veronica (Darryl Hannah), a former hooker and stripper now nursing heroin addiction and an abusive cop boyfriend.
Perry’s eye for the nuances of dialogue, dress and demeanour lend credibility to his dark contemporary fairy tale. Under the tutelage of mentor (and Executive Producer) Gus Van Sant. the young direclor has elicifed the most from his cast. Ample evidence comes in the form of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, once the wisecracking tike Randy from TV sitcom Home Improvements. Decked out in a skin-tight biack satin shirt, all swagger and attitude, he is Crown Prince amongst the street kids—always scamming, always quick with gutter wisdom and never to be trusted. A hot-wired night ride Ihrough a gambler’s paradise and a loser’s hell. —Melbourne International Film Festival