I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Kinda like how John Woo always has doves in his movies, and Steven Spielberg always has lens flare, so shall Colombian director Antonio Negret be known for exploding cars flipping through the air. It’s not a particularly unique visual twitch to embrace, this is true, but he’s not a particularly distinctive sort of filmmaker. His latest, Overdrive, is barely distinguishable from his previous film, 2012’s almost hilariously terrible Transit. Sadly, though, Overdrive is quite distinguishable from the movies it would like to be seen as akin to, the very early Fast and Furious movies (like, the first two only) that were good dumb fun. Overdrive is just dumb, and makes that first Fast and Furious look like Citizen Kane, if Charles Foster were a street racer and Rosebud the ’69 Mustang he loved and lost.
Overdrive is, in fact, written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, who wrote 2 Fast 2 Furious. And when I say they “wrote” this, I mean that I suspect that they dusted off all the stuff they cut out of that earlier script for being too idiotic, too clichéd, and/or too ridiculous, and reassembled it into this limp excuse for a movie. This is the tale of two criminal brothers– excuse me, half brothers, as one keeps reminding the other, like there’s something funny about that. Vaguely dudebro-y wannabe insults like this litter the dialogue: everything is meant to sound quip-ish, even when it makes no sense. Anyway, American Andrew (Scott Eastwood: The Fate of the Furious, Suicide Squad) and Brit Garrett (Freddie Thorp) Foster — heh, Foster! — hang out in Marseille and steal cars, and apparently they are the greatest car thieves ever, except possibly not; the way in which this is established is problematic, as is almost everything else that happens or is said onscreen here. We are introduced to their supposed genius in stealing cars — and I’m talking serious cars, like a one-of-only-two-of-a-kind classic that just sold at auction for $40 million — when they pull a dangerously stupid stunt that involves Andrew jumping from an overpass onto the top of the truck transporting the car while it’s barreling along at high speed, and when that goes bad, they end up doing what they could have just done in the first place, as Andrew merely climbs onto the truck from the car alongside that Garrett is driving.
Overly convoluted, and without good reason: this is one way to describe Overdrive, which then descends into a sort of accidental petrol-powered parody of Inception, or an unholy blending of Gone in 60 Seconds with Ocean’s Eleven, as the brothers — excuse me, half brothers — try to get out of trouble with a succession of Extremely Bad Rich Guys (that’s who owns the likes of $40 million cars) by offering to steal cars for them from their Extremely Bad Rich Guy rivals. (That makes it sound more clever than it is, which is none clever. It’s a roundrobin of forced witlessness, though it does indeed pat itself on the back — or the tailfin — for the presumed crafty brilliance that it actually utterly lacks.) What follows from there is more plot holes than plot, a random collection of scenes that don’t quite follow from one to the next. Andrew and Garrett are Schroedinger’s criminals: they both need a plan and don’t need a plan at the same time, depending on what sort of snarky remark about plans the moment calls for. They gather a gang for their heisting, but they “don’t have time to be picky” about the quality of their minions, which kinda puts paid to the notion of them as criminal masterminds. The gang aren’t really characters anyway; they just hover in the background as a silent Benetton ad for diversity in criminal activity. Hovering in the foreground are Stephanie (Ana de Armas: War Dogs, Exposed), the brothers’ — excuse me, half brothers’ — criminal partner except now she’s Andrew’s girlfriend and he can’t even with putting her in danger; and Devin (Gaia Weiss: The Legend of Hercules), who has some thieving skills but looks headed to be Garrett’s new girlfriend, because what else would she be good for, really? Occasionally Stephanie slaps Andrew, because that’s what women do to train up manchildren, but mostly there’s a lot of exasperated yet charmed head-shaking from the women, because cute boys, amirite?
The movie will eventually have its “strong women are hot as long as they’re not the center of story, and are literally physically hot” cake and eat its “damsels in distress are an awesome plot point and also hot” too. The movie will feature painful innuendo, nonsensical coincidences, and people who would have to be psychic for many things that happen to work out even remotely like it does. The dialogue is sporadically memorable only when it’s laughable: “Get some sleep, we’ve got a car to steal in the morning.” “We were trying not to draw attention to ourselves” (as they steal that $40 million car moving down a highway in broad daylight at great speed). “There are other ways to make dad proud” (other than stealing cars, that is). And, of course, it’s all One Last Job for Andrew before he gets out of this game.
Ah, the sophisticated cinema of Europe. Didn’t I mention? This is a French production, though it’s in the English language. Still, much Continental suaveness! The Extremely Bad Rich Guy rivals are played by Frenchman Simon Abkarian (Scribe, Persepolis), filling the Andy Garcia slot, and Clemens Schick (Transit, Casino Royale), who is like a German Richard Armitage. There’s a scene set in a strip club with a back room for boules (the French version of bocce). I mean, pole dancers out front are okay, but hide that shit with the balls, I guess. Europe? Europe!