On Location: "Quicksilver"


Welcome to "On Location," a micro-feature taking you to little-known cinematic locations of SF and taking a look at the films shot in the city by the bay over the years.

Every now and again, and especially in this season of giving thanks, it's good to be reminded about Kevin Bacon. Despite his much-bandied level of connectedness, Bacon has had a rough go of it, from starting his career as a slain teen to being cast as an corrupt cop, or serial murderer, or child molester over and over, not to mention his recent financial troubles. What better place to start the thanksgiving than Quicksilver, the SF-based biker flick Bacon reportedly called "the absolute lowest point in my career." The rapid location switching in this lame duck Flashdance-on-bikes is enough to give anyone vertigo, but before we get there, let's make fun of the plot a little. Kevin says it's OK.

After losing his shirt, and his parents' life savings (presumably for added dramatic effect), in a particularly lousy day of stock trading at the now-defunct Pacific Stock Exchange which still sits on Pine street in downtown SF, day-trading golden boy Jack Casey suffers a crisis of confidence and decides to quit the business. An awkward sequence follows in which he takes a cab to the country–actually Noe Valley–to break the news to his unduly supportive parents. There's an awkward moment where it looks like he might actually be about to ask to move back in with them, but luckily it passes and he finds himself back in a cab, racing with an African American bike messenger who he symbolically steals authenticity from by grabbing his dropped army beret. A brief city streets montage passes, and boom!, Bacon is a top notch, salt-of-the-earth bike messenger hobnobbing with and helping out the "less privileged" classes (he helps one Mexican friend open a hot dog stand outside of Civic Center) and enjoying earning his living in his new "worry free" life.

To a T, it's the kind of classic yarn of white privilege that the theater-going populace ate up with a spoon in the money hungry 1980s: White boy loses confidence and hides from the world in a more "honest" profession–which he is (naturally) the best at–helps out all those poor suckers who are stuck there because it's their real, actual life, and parachutes out just in time to not get stuck there, managing to snatch up a the best looking girl in the room, in this case Jami Gertz of Lost Boys fame, on his way back to the top. Church!

Considering the time and place, this would all be almost redeemable if there were just a few more of the admittedly excellent bike sequences, like the five minutes of trick riding outside of messenger HQ–fixie heads take note! The film's unequivocal high points, the then-innovative bike riding scenes, give Premium Rush a run for its money, but flip-flop back and forth between San Francisco and Los Angeles with no remorse: In Bacon's big race with Laurence (then Larry) Fishburne, the two start at the top of Diamond Heights, rolls through Potrero and back to Chinatown (those hills look great on camera don't they?), then turns the corner abruptly into the flatlands of Los Angeles' Chinatown. The regular riding sequences are similarly scattered, tagging local landmarks like Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid then turning down Montgomery, directly into downtown Los Angeles to detour past throwback grub hub Clifton's Cafeteria. Even the film's final showdown plays hopscotch from abandoned lots and underpasses LA's Echo Park to unfinished bits of the since dismantled Embarcadero freeway for the entirely over-cranked finish.

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