Highway Heartbreaker (1992): Not Such A Good Ol’ Boy

Dave casts his eye over the true story of a moustachioed conman.

Sporting a fulsome moustache, a dapper tan roll-neck sweater, and looking like the poster boy for success in his shiny red Porsche, it’s no wonder that single lady Catherine (Linda Gray) momentarily moves out of her comfort zone to exchange phone numbers with blonde-haired Mickey Kinton (John Schneider). For this middle-aged divorcee who’s learning to live with a disability following a car accident, Kinton’s arrival in her life seems too good to be true – and unfortunately that’s exactly what it is. This rakish rogue is a bona fide conman who hooks up with vulnerable wealthy women, extorts a good few grand from them under the pretence of an investment, and then hightails to his next victim. Thankfully, he’s about to meet his match in the shape of Alex (Heather Locklear) and Annie (Tracy Nelson): two strong women who are determined to make Kinton pay for his heartless hustling.

“These were not naïve, sheltered women,” producer Marcy Gross told the Los Angeles Times just prior to HIGHWAY HEARTBREAKER‘s premiere in CBS’ Sunday Night Movie slot. “This can happen to anyone. The problem is that the system tends to laugh at this kind of behaviour. Generally speaking, people don’t take this kind of thing seriously.” [1]

That’s certainly a key takeaway from Paul Schneider’s engaging TV potboiler. Scripted by Deborah Serra (Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)), the dismissive reactions from both the lawyers (“It’s just a bunch of hysterical females”) and law enforcement that these women are subjected to leaves you aghast. Indeed, the first time that Alex heads to the cops to report that Kinton has swindled twenty-five grand from her the lead detective (John Kapelos) shrugs it off with, “It’s not like there was any violence. It’s just a crime of bad judgment.”

Originally set to be called ‘Highway Casanova’, Serra’s script is based on a series of crimes that occurred only a few years prior to production. The nefarious real-life deeds of Joseph (Mac) Duffy were well reported in the local Orange County press, where he eventually plead guilty to four counts of grand theft for the various schemes he orchestrated. Dubbed ‘The Playboy of the Coast Highway’, he got off virtually scot-free with a two-year suspended sentence, and an agreement to make a partial repayment to the handful of women who had the stones to bring him to book.

Schneider (no relation to helmer Paul) nails the Duffy-inspired role of Mickey Kinton, balancing the traits of suave and shady to a tee. Predictably, though, it’s the powerhouse trio of Gray, Locklear, and Nelson who elevate Highway Heartbreaker above your standard small screen fare. They’re all excellent in this battle against a rigged system – and more so for exposing the impotence of the men in charge, all of whom are left watching on forlornly as the women bravely fight for justice.

USA ● 1992 ● Drama, TVM ● 93mins

John Schneider, Linda Gray, Heather Locklear, Tracy Nelson ● Dir. Paul Schneider ● Wri. Deborah Serra

[1] Highway Heartbreaker Revisits Road to Ruin by Rick Vanderknyff, Los Angeles Times, 28th March 1992

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