A former car racer, now a driving instructor, finds himself an involuntary getaway driver when a phony student robs a bank. You have probably seen it all before, but the witty repartee between the mysterious criminal and his hapless victim does keep things on an entertaining level. Cult director Brian Trenchard-Smith, directs and co-authors a film for car-chase fans with not a lot of plot to get in the way. Rating: high 0 (-4 to +4) or 5/10.
In Queensland and the Gold Coast of Australia, American-born driving teacher, Peter Roberts (played by Thomas Jane), has dreams of getting back on the car racing circuit for some more high-speed driving. He gets no family encouragement but he still dreams, however. Right now he is making his living teaching. But he gets his chance to drive fast again when one of his students–maybe a little old for being a student–asks him to make a five-minute stop at a bank. Simon Keller (John Cusack) uses the five minutes to rob the bank, and suddenly Roberts finds he is a getaway driver and the subject of a police manhunt. He finds he has very little support when he contacts his wife and daughter, but Keller is happy to give Roberts a little life advice while the two run from the police and assorted gun-happy citizens.
The plot is neither creative nor complex. Mostly it is an excuse for a series of medium-speed and medium-octane car chases and even laid-back driving. The back-story of Keller and a bunch of gang- owned banks really gets short shrift. Throughout Keller just talks to Roberts. And he turns out to be fairly straight-up and really concerned to see Roberts get out of this car chase alive and then go home and fix up his dysfunctional relationship with his wife. The relationship is one in which Roberts cannot even admit to himself that he is dissatisfied. In some ways Keller is a poor- man’s answer to the Tom Cruise character in COLLATERAL, only with a more sympathetic heart.
The title and the poster promise hard, tire-spinning action. The poster probably was designed before the filming actually started. Instead, the action scenes all seem to be somehow blunted and soft. The dialog and action is contrived not to lose the viewers’ regard for either of the two main characters. They may leave someone dead after they have been attacked, but what happens is the other guy accidentally killing himself. Brian Trenchard-Smith has a good reputation on Australia’s action grind-house circuit, but he is toning the action down and avoiding sharp edges here. The story seems too tame and nowhere near as exciting as the poster makes it look. Even the look of the film is a little cheap.
The film is actually Canadian-produced, but it is shot in Queensland. The dialog exchange is amusing but otherwise, without films like this, cable TV would have nothing to show at 2 AM. I rate it a high 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. DRIVE HARD will be in some theaters September 26, 2014.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper