I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Drive Hard

tn_drivehardDRIVE HARD joins DEATH RACE and GETAWAY in the new action subgenre of “former car racing superstar is forced to drive for bad people.” In this one the driver in question is Peter Roberts (Tom Jane, STANDER), a flaky doofus who left racing to get married and raise a daughter in Australia, but now is running out of money and having trouble paying the mortgage, let alone achieving his dream of opening a racing school. Instead he has a driver’s ed school.

Then one day mysterious troublemaker Simon Keller (John Cusack from THE PAPERBOY), a grown man who seems to already know how to drive, takes a lesson from him. After an uncomfortably horrible drive and awkward coffee break in which the stranger admits to being a fan and knowing all about his career, he convinces Peter to drive him to the bank. So he can get some cash to pay for the lesson, he says. But then he comes out holding a brief case and exchanging gunfire with security guards.

mp_drivehardSo in driving away trying not to get shot Peter gets identified as the getaway driver on TV, and has to keep going so as not to get shot by the merciless private security that the apparently unscrupulous bank has handling the matter. Keller really is holding him hostage at gunpoint, and is clearly a crazy person, but I doubt he would really kill him. He just shoots him in the ass with a rubber bullet when he has to. He’s not 100% villain. The robbery is targeted at former partners committing bank fraud.

This is directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, but don’t get excited. It’s not a rebirth of the Trenchard-Smith that did insane car stunts in DEAD END DRIVE-IN and DEATH CHEATERS, though probly a more-watchable-than-usual late period Trenchard-Smith. (To be fair I haven’t seen most of them and his last one, ABSOLUTE DECEPTION, starred Cuba Gooding Jr., whose movies often end up being better than I expect.)

Unfortunately the car stuff is no more than competent, never exciting. That poster to the right is a little exaggerated in my opinion. What makes the movie okay though is these two actors fuckin around with their characters. Cusack’s kind of a Bugs Bunny type, a weirdo trickster convincing a dumb guy of ridiculous things, for example that his wife doesn’t respect him as a man and he can assert himself by seeing this heist through to the end. I think Cusack’s doing a little bit of Hunter S. Thompson too with his rarely-removed sunglasses, loud pattern shirt and cigarette-holder-style vaping pen. Never taking off his bulky Under Armour gloves also adds to his freakiness. I started to wonder if he was supposed to be a burn victim or something.

Jane can do cool really well, but he’s clearly having fun being the dork here. He’s shaggy-haired and Converse-wearing, stupidly falling for obvious tricks, getting beat up by an old lady. They’re pretty funny together. I like when Peter makes a police call and seems suspiciously calm, so Keller helps him out by holding a gun to his head and making him cry. When it works, Keller nods his head “good,” like he’s directing the performance.

And I like the running gag of Keller’s endless supply of burner phones, which he tosses out the window after each use. When Peter uses one to call his wife he suddenly realizes with boyish delight that maybe Keller will let him throw this one. But he asks permission first.

The stuff with Peter’s family back home is pretty corny. His wife is real angry at him, like it’s his fault he got taken hostage. Actually that’s a potentially funny premise, but it’s not played for chuckles. What is is his daughter being impressed by him for the first time, and excitedly watching him as he risks his life on TV, driving recklessly while people chase him and are trying to kill him. I get it, media sensationalism, the cult of celebrity, etc. Real deep.

Writers Chad and Evan Law previously did THE HIT LIST and ONE IN THE CHAMBER, which are both more entertaining and have better action. This is really no more than a DTV or cable TV time waster. But there are worse things in the world. Disease, poverty, The Big Bang Theory, I could go on. Unlike those things this one’s almost halfway to decent.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 at 1:27 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “Drive Hard”

  1. This and that weird film with Jason Patrick made me fall out of love with John Cusack.

    Still got Joan though.

  2. I was super excited for this one in the 30 second interval between finding out that it exists and reading my first review.

  3. Y’all ain’t the boss of me, PINGING like a mad thing, here.

  4. Sorry guys, it’s been a long week.

  5. Vern, are you coming out as a creationist? Since you hate the big bang theory, I mean.

  6. The Original Paul

    January 23rd, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Majestyk – you and me both, brother. I took one look at the concept for this movie and who was in it and thought: “This is gonna be fantastic!” Then I read the review and thought: “Oh, never mind.”

    By the way, I just checked out your website, and man, you have some cool stuff on there. A lot of interesting points about the second Nolan [REDACTED] movie, most of which I agree with, although they obviously didn’t bother me as much as they did you. I’d like to comment on some of the more obscure stuff, but there’s a reason it’s obscure to me… I suspect that 1) you have a helluva lot more experience in films, especially of a certain genre, than I do, and 2) we just grew up in completely separate environments in terms of what we were exposed to. So I can’t.

  7. The Original Paul

    January 23rd, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    And I now want to watch BRAIN-SMASHER. That’s not something I expect to say very often.

  8. BRAIN SMASHER is a real good one. Humor, action, heart, a solid cast. The whole package. I definitely recommend it.

    Thanks for checking out my site. I haven’t written any reviews in a long-ass time (for which Mr. Subtlety has harangued me thoroughly) but I got a new living situation going on right now and I’m trying to do more positive things with my time, one of which I’m hoping includes writing reviews of obscure B-movies that don’t descend into the “Look at that stupid shit ha ha how stupid they are not to have more money and talent” negativity that I see in so many other reviews that focus on that type of material. I look back now and kind of cringe at how much of my style I straight up bit from our man Vern (with a healthy assist from Joe Bob Briggs, my original spiritual mentor) but I’m hoping to develop more of an original voice when I get back into it.

    And don’t worry about not having the background for the kind of stuff I write about. I try to write for an audience who has never even heard of this shit, so the review will be able to stand in for the viewing experience. I try not to write about movies I don’t like, so I’m mostly just trying to share my enjoyment of a thing that most people will never get around to experiencing. I can be a negative motherfucker but when I review movies it’s all love.

    Oh, and my views on the Nolan Batmen have definitely softened. I keep meaning to do a MAJESTYK MAKES AMENDS on them but I never get around to it.

  9. Congrats to Mr. Majestyk for managing to create something that somehow manages to delight both Paul and me. You should, I dunno, run for Pope maybe?

  10. The Original Paul

    January 23rd, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Mr S – I dunno, we don’t disagree that often, do we? Y’know I don’t post that much unless I have something to contribute that someone else hasn’t said before… and that usually means disagreeing with something or other. I honestly agree with 90% of you guys 90% of the time. I just don’t point it out that much.

    I do like the concept of “running for Pope” though. Makes me wonder if the candidate with the most “prayers” would get accused of corruption or taking bribes.

  11. Mr M, I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself about your writing style, you always reminded me of a B-grade film loving Ebert with your common sense approach. Except Ebert was more of a humanist where you lean toward misanthropy. But that makes for amusing commentary. Mr Subtlety reminds me of Gene Siskel on crack, which I mean as a compliment, so there’s no end to the interesting discussions around here.

    And the stars must have aligned for me on BRAINSMASHER cause I also recently read your review, and wanted to see it, then stumbled upon it in a bargain bin yesterday. Looking forward to watching it asap.

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