Based on an actual criminal case, Freeway Killer (2010) tells the chilling and disturbing story of a notorious serial killer named William Bonin who lived in California, and preyed on young men. Bonin would deposit the dead bodies of his victims along the side of major roadways, leading to his gaining the nickname of "Freeway Killer".
Roughly set in the 1979 through 1980 time period, the film does a fairly good job of recounting some very bizarre happenings, as Bonin (played by Scott Anthony Leet) may have been responsible for over thirty murders. Bonin would typically befriend young men, offer them rides in his van, provide them marijuana, and them kill them. Other times he would take them to his home, and murder them there. Bonin worked alone, and also with several partners, including Vernon Butts (Dusty Song).
Unknown to them, some of Bonin's victims walked a strange line between life and death. In some cases, instead of killing them, Bonin would attempt to get his victims to participate in the murder of another. The film shows an instance of this, as Kyle Peterson (Cole Williams), a convenience store clerk, is introduced to Bonin's and Butt's world of violence, and then participates in a brutal murder.
Bonin's compulsions to kill are overpowering, and lead to a rift between him and Butts, and also with new partner Peterson. Bonin's extreme recklessness eventually leads to his being suspected by the police, and his arrest while actually choking a victim.
The chilling story is told in flashbacks, as while on death row, Bonin has some conversations with a mother who suspects that her missing son was one of his many victims. The film features several up close and personal kills that spotlights the extreme intensity of the violence, and effectively portrays the taking of life in a realistic and scary way.
That all the victims are male, makes for a change of pace from the usual serial killer drama. The film doesn't specifically address sexual assault, although the real William Bonin did rape some of his victims, and also killed minors. The movie portrays Bonin as someone who's thirst for blood causes him to become reckless, although why he risked working with various partners, generally remains obscure. Vernon Butts, who fancied himself as having mystical powers, was apparently also quite an unusual character. The film doesn't show Butts committing any murders, but he was eventually charged as an accomplice in nine homicides.
The film seems to realistically capture, at least some of the madness that possessed William Bonin. Scott Anthony Leet's edgy performance is chilling, and explosively violence. Dusty Song, Cole Williams, and Michael Rooker as the officer in charge of the investigation, are all very solid. The commentary track by director John Murlowski and writer David Birke is helpful in both understanding more about the making of the movie, and the actual case. Freeway Killer is not a pleasant watch, but it is a very solid, often riveting crime drama with a conclusive ending. Rating: 3.5 stars.