‘Drive Hard’ Or How I Learned to Stop Whining, and Enjoy a Bad Film

by Brett Steinbrink on December 4, 2014

in Blu-ray/DVD Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Up]

Ever shopped at WalMart, cheered for the Dallas Cowboys, or eaten at KFC? There’s a little bit of shame in your personal knowledge that you probably did so willingly, and would probably do so again. That’s kind of how I felt about Drive Hard (Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray), the newest film from Brian Trenchard-Smith (Leprechaun 4: In Space). I knew consciously that it was set to be a bad film, and yet, I still really, really enjoyed watching it.

Set in sunny Australia, Peter Roberts (Thomas Jane) is a racecar-driver-turned-driving-instructor who feels stuck in life. He owes money to multiple people, his lawyer wife doesn’t seem to care about him, and his daughter thinks he’s a bum. When Simon Keller (John Cusack) appears as a fellow American in need of a driving lesson, Roberts gets a lot more than he bargained for, as Keller robs a bank and forces Roberts to tap into all his racing skill to get Keller safely away, as well as earning himself a cut of the money. The plot thickens when it turns out Keller has some bad blood with the corrupt bankers, who are part of an international crime syndicate and using the bank for money laundering.

Let’s get this out of the way: Drive Hard really isn’t a very good film. The premise is laughable at best, most of the characters are one-dimensional and not all that interesting, and at times, the writing is downright atrocious. However, the biggest redeeming quality is a sort of combination of the x-factor of some surprising laughs and the irresistibility of John Cusack’s easy charm. I’d love to see what MST3K would do to this film.

My favorite part of the film comes in the form of an unexpected gag involving a seemingly-kindly old woman in a bed and breakfast, and a rather large revolver, as she begins to fire at our protagonists upon recognizing them as wanted criminals. Hell, she gets into a fistfight with Roberts, and nearly wins! I know it was the sort of humor that maybe I should be above at this stage in my life, but to hell with that.  It was hilarious. Like, so funny my roommate came down to see what what was so funny and I skipped back to the beginning of the scene hilarious.

But speaking of the charm of Cusack’s acting, one thing that he does incessantly in this film drives me up the wall, and it has to do with the characterization of Keller as he’s portrayed to us. You see, most tough guys in movies have a way to show us they’re tough in a visual sense–leather jackets, cigarette smoke, well-defined muscles, certain hairstyles, etc. What Keller’s character is shown as is some black baseball-hat and driving-glove wearing middle-aged guy who sits in his car vaping. Yes, like using those e-cigarettes.

Few things look less intimidating than seeing a wannabe “badass” with a small trail of water vapor coming from the long metal contraption in his hand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking the practice, but as a characterization tool, all it did was leave me scratching my head, but at least I’m thankful that Roberts isn’t being exposed to secondhand smoke, I guess?

Drive Hard isn’t a great film, but for all its bad premise, cheesy sequences, and weak acting, it has some redeeming features in the way that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and with the natural charm of the snarky Cusack. But in all honesty, despite all the reasons I should’ve absolutely hated Drive Hard, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate that delicious KFC-esque movie, even though it was probably bad for me.

Brett is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, with dual degrees in Film & Media Studies and History. He enjoys watching sports, playing video games, and watching too many movies/television programs. If you’re looking for someone to quote “Friends” at you, give you a detailed outline of Franco-American foreign relations during the 1790′s, or make a lame pun… he’s probably your go-to guy.

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