There’s an entire genre of films built around older men in action films. Whether it was bred from a need for some sort of budding power fantasy or a legitimate strive toward capturing the feel of their halcyon days, this genre has done especially well in the current era of nostalgia the movie going public has found themselves in.
With the bevy of options in this particular genre available (I can think of five or six films about old men driving fast cars off the top of my head right now), what makes Drive Hard (a film coming out of absolutely nowhere) so special? Drive Hard knows what kind of power fantasy (and in turn, the audience) it wants to be and never once shies from it.
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Release Date: October 3, 2014
Drive Hard is about former racing champion Peter Roberts (Thomas Jane). A later aged man (trust me, his age is important) who dreams of his former glory but now has a job as a driving instructor in order to please his wife. One day he gets a new student, Simon Keller (John Cusack), who then robs a bank, threatens Peter into becoming his driver, and the two get caught up in a chase around Australia as all sorts of folks are after them.
As mentioned earlier, Drive Hard is the latest in a long line of films appealing to gentleman of a certain age. Yet Hard seems far more genuine about what it’s trying to accomplish. Everything about the film is directly simplistic (from the title, to the dialogue, to the bad guy’s motive), and while that’d be a major flaw in other films, it works well here. Its lower budget also leads to a welcome sense of intimacy with the thematic nature of the film. Although the budget leads to some irksome CGI effects, those are few and far inbetween as the film relies on practical effects. I’m sure the CGI is never a problem because Drive Hard only works within its abilities. It’s interesting to see a film keep itself from over reaching and becoming something less than. For example, for a film advertised as full of car chases, there are only two of them. The pace during these scenes is slowed down (which results in unintentional goofiness), but all have a nice flow to them.
But those car chases are only in the film to get their audience’s attention. As the film rolls on, it turns into a cruising film where two guys just start bonding over life and women trouble. This is where I’m sure it’ll *click* the most with its intended audience. While the derogatory views toward women are troublesome, it oddly makes sense here. You see, the reason Peter eventually bonds with Simon is because Peter is mad about giving up his racing career because he got his girlfriend pregnant. It’s a terribly insensitive thing for a character to say, but it has a certain resonance with the older men who’ll blame their wife for their regrets. It’s a weirdly intimate moment that speaks more to its audience than anything else in the film.
I’m sure the tone I’ve taken with this review might make Drive Hard seem like an awful film, but it’s not all bad. Even if you don’t associate the film’s tone with a mid-life crises like I did (I mean, Simon spends all of his money on classic American Muscle cars), it’s a brisk film in an age where conciseness is lacking in almost every film. Thomas Jane and John Cusack also elevate the film’s material as they swap their purported roles. While Cusack’s normally the lovable every man and Jane the hardened badass, it’s pretty fun to watch them swap mannerisms and flesh out their character as much as they can. Cusack is notably fun when he carries a nonchalant attitude during action scenes.
All in all, I’m sure Drive Hard is a film my dad would like. He’s 40-50 something, likes cool cars, and you just kind of have to accept his views toward women. It’s built for a very, very specific audience (and if you’re not a part of that audience, look elsewhere), it has a good pace, and Cusack and Jane seem to be enjoying themselves.
Drive Hard is the kind of film I’d recommend to my dad on Saturday afternoons. He might fall asleep in the middle, but I’m sure he’d relate to the film’s distinct viewpoints. And if not, there’re cool cars driving slowly and old man jokes.