Review: Drive Hard
PLOT: A former race-car driver (Thomas Jane) turned driving instructor in Australia has the misfortune to have a lesson scheduled with a mysterious fellow-American (John Cusack), who coerces him into being his getaway driver following a bank robbery
REVIEW: When the trailer for DRIVE HARD dropped a few months ago, many of us weren't quite sure what to make of it. It suggested an awkward mix of humor and comedy bolstered by the presence of two notable leading men (Cusack and Jane – both of whom have seen better days), but the production value seemed rather chintzy.
Still, the presence of Brian Trenchard-Smith in the director's chair gave some of us (including me) a lot of hope. For those not in the know, Trenchard-Smith was one of the most notable directors to emerge from the grindhouse ozploitation days of Australian cinema, with none other than Quentin Tarantino citing him as a major influence. While he's done a lot of dreck in his time, including several LEPRECHAUN movies and the “awfully good' favorite MEGIDDO: THE OMEGA CODE 2, a Gold Coast set car chase movie sounded right up his alley. After all, he was able to make THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, DEATH CHEATERS, TURKEY SHOOT, and others on far less money. What could go wrong?
Plenty it seems. More-or-less a D-grade ripoff of COLLATERAL, DRIVE HARD probably would have been a blast if it was made in the 1970s. Back then, Trenchard-Smith would have had stuntmen like Grant Page performing jaw-dropping daredevil acts of insanity, and the result would have no doubt been everyone's favorite kind of cheese. Sadly, things are different nowadays, and the type of things they got away with back then just can't be done anymore. As a result, DRIVE HARD is deadly dull, with some of the most boring car chases I've seen since BALLISTIC: ECKS VS SEVER, as Jane and Cusack (or their doubles) tear-down curiously abandoned stretches of road, pausing far too often for dull exposition and cringe-worthy comedy. Low points include a gun-totting senior, a bike gang that's about as threatening as Vanilla Ice's crew from COOL AS ICE, and villains that are so bland they're almost non-existent.
As for stars Thomas Jane and John Cusack, of the two Jane seems to be the one who's putting more on the line, and it's no stretch to think that given the right material, he could nail an action movie (as he did in the underrated STANDER several years ago). Cusack – however – phones it in big time. He seems to have wandered onto the set wearing pretty much the same get-up he wears in every movie now, meaning a black suit jacket, and a black cap. One assumes he took this for a quick buck and not much else. I'm not sure exactly what the point of having Cusack never take off his sunglasses was. Either they were trying to make him eccentric (he also never removes his leather gloves) or Cusack just couldn't be bothered. The downside is that the set lighting is often reflected in his shades, giving the movie a really low-rent vibe, not helped by some really bad green-screen work and terrible process shots of the stars in their souped-up getaway car.
Still, all of this could have been forgiven if DRIVE HARD at least had a bit of good action, but for a movie bearing this title, there's a curious shortage of hard-driving. At best this feels like a second-rate TV show, which is so disappointing as there's no reason this couldn't have been a fun buddy-comedy-action throwback. Say what you will about Trenchard-Smith, but his movies usually have some flair or a steady pace, but I don't know what happened here. Maybe the budget was cut midway through shooting or something like that, but the result barely feels like a film at all. The plot – which involves crooked cops, a corrupt bank, and a cartel of killers – hardly makes a lick of sense, and by the time this rolls to a merciful end, you'll be utterly petrified at the hint of a sequel, which these seems to promise (threaten?).
As such, you probably won't be seeing DRIVE HARD at a theater near you anytime soon, although given the names involved it should hit VOD sooner-or-later. Being a Canadian-Australian co-production, it's gotten an early VOD release north-of-the-border, a similar fate to another best-forgotten Cusack vehicle, THE FACTORY. This one scrapes the bottom-of-the-barrel folks. Skip it.