Director: Brian Trenchard Smith
Screenplay: Brigitte Jean Allen, Brian Trenchard Smith
Starring: John Cusack, Thomas Jane, Zoe Ventoura, Chris Morris, Yesse Spence
Running Time: 97 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
Based on an original idea by Chad and Evan Law, Drive Hard sees a former racing car driver, played rather (too) comically by Thomas Jane (The Punisher, The Mist), now somewhat reluctantly working as a part-time driving instructor, while his ball-busting wife nags at him to get a proper job and do more to support their increasingly precocious daughter.
As per usual he sets off to work one morning and finds to his surprise that his first client of the day is an American called Mr Keller (John Cusack) who is obviously not really a learner driver, although he manages to drive somewhat recklessly and erratically while on their way to a bank. Keller then proceeds to rob the International Bank & Trust of approximately $9 million in Bara bonds, and then gets Jane’s character to act as a getaway driver for him. Obviously it doesn’t take long for the authorities to think that our driving instructor was in on it all along and the two men are chased through the streets, and along a beach at one point, by various cop cars; only our hero’s expert driving skills enables them to elude capture by ‘the fuzz’.
It soon becomes apparent that the bank Keller robbed isn’t an innocent party and is a mob bank run by a crooked business cartel that owes Keller for a job he did for them some time ago (stealing a very valuable diamond), before they set him up as a fall guy to go to prison for several years on their behalf. Obviously Keller, now out of the clink, wants what’s rightfully his, along with an amount of hefty interest, plus some payback. Our driving instructor/racing car fall-guy must try to work out how to survive the rest of the day with corrupt cops, mobsters and a pissed off wife all on his case.
The chemistry between Cusack and Jane is quite good and, unsurprisingly, as their adventure together throws them into all sorts of weird and dangerous directions, they begin to bond, until they become something just shy of actual friends. Cusack channels his stint in Grosse Point Blank, even down to the fact he is dressed similarly (although here he chomps down on an electronic cigarette a lot) and Jane plays his badly groomed ex-racing driver as a man who’s kind of lost his confidence and has become a hen-pecked husband without a cause. The only thing he still seems to have in spades is a bad sense of humour.
And there is quite a bit of humour in this film, from Jane’s one liners to his daughter dismaying her mum by excitedly (and somewhat proudly) shouting: ‘Daddy robbed a bank, daddy robbed a bank’, when she is watching news reports to the sequence where Jane’s character is assaulted by an old lady at a country club, where they steal a car from.
What Drive Hard lacks is proper dramatic tension. We’re never really in doubt that Jane’s goofy character will make it to the end, and the crooks seem to be a bit too incompetent for us to feel that our odd couple are in all that much danger. Plus, with a title like that you’d expect to see more crazy car chases then we actually get to see.
I think one of the problems was the budget, for, even with two reasonably well known stars, I’d imagine that the film’s budget was relatively small, and it shows. For example, the bank robbery consists of a few shots of Keller shoving stuff into a bag out of a safety deposit box, with no real interaction with anyone else or the rest of the bank for that matter. The car action is all a bit tame, although there’s clearly some skill in the stunts work, although there are some badly done CGI explosions. Disappointingly, the ending is all a bit anti-climatic, although most loose-ends are finally cleared up.
However, it’s nice to see a film shot across the Gold Coast in Australia, and I’m sure that that fact alone probably convinced the two leads to sign up for the movie. Director, Brian Trenchard-Smith has done better stuff than this, namely Man from Hong Kong (1975), Dead End Drive-In (1986) and Day of the Panther (1987), and here it feels like he’s treading water a bit, but it could have been worse, it could have been a remake of his own BMX Bandits (1983)!
All in all, Drive Hard is a fun, but rather goofy ride.
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Drive Hard has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Signature Entertainment. There were no special features on the disc.