Hollywood’s penchant for recycling hackneyed and clichéd ideas has been alienating a segment of the movie-going public for some time now. Seemingly running out of fresh concepts, the industry keeps churning out remakes and adaptations of television shows, video games and comic books at an accelerating rate.
This is in large part related to the exorbitant costs of filmmaking today, and the desire on the part of studios to have a “built-in” audience ready to go see a film to offset the risk. So when I happen upon a fresh take or novel idea in a current film, I am prone to jump on it, as I did with the subject of this month’s Rob’s Car Movie Review, Overdrive (2017).
A joint production by TF1 Films, Kinology and Overdrive Productions, Overdrive was distributed in the United States by Paramount Pictures and was directed by Antonio Negret, based on a script by Michael Brandt and Derek Hass. The movie stars Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood, Freddie Thorp, new “it” girl Ana de Armas, Gaia Weiss and Simon Abkarian.
Eastwood and Thorp play half-brothers, Andrew and Garrett Foster, a pair of high-end car thieves who are working the Cote d’Azur in France during the collector car auction season. After a hyper-rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic sells by proxy in Monaco for $42 million, they steal it as it is being transported to its new owner. Unbeknownst to them, the owner, Jacomo Morier (Abkarian), happens to be the largest heroin dealer in Marseilles and isn’t happy to discover that his exorbitantly expensive new toy has vanished before he can even drive it.
The dealer locates the Fosters and has them brought to his compound, and at gunpoint accepts an offer by the lads to steal a rival’s rare 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO in exchange for their lives. The stakes are high and are raised to the boiling point when two Interpol agents enter the equation, investigating a curious rash of classic car thefts that have been plaguing the Riviera. The brothers must walk a tightrope as they navigate their way out of the situation with the aid of their lady friends (de Armas and Weiss), and a gang of professional getaway drivers.
Sounds like a pretty fresh take on the beloved heist caper genre, huh? It is, but unfortunately, the film falls flat in its execution. For starters, the movie steals dozens of clichéd facets from Need For Speed and every Fast and Furious installment produced. From the “oh so fashionable and slick” look of the protagonists, who in spite of being twenty-somethings, are smarter and more clever than everyone including kingpins and cops; to the impossible and borderline idiotic shenanigans in the film’s action and chase sequences, you feel like you’ve seen this all before, because you have.
The film also has pacing problems that often bring the proceedings to a near halt, and perhaps most annoyingly has a very poor sound mix, which often prevents you from hearing what many of the French accented characters are saying. Add to that a climax that you can see coming from a country mile away, and you’d think that there aren’t any redeeming qualities about this film. But you’d be wrong because there are exactly three.
For starters, the movie’s setting is idyllic, featuring Monaco, Marseilles, and Nice in all of their opulent splendor, ably captured by some fairly decent cinematography. Secondly, although not given much to work with, the cast is quite good, including Eastwood, who bears a striking resemblance to his father, and Ana de Armas, who it may not be possible to photograph poorly.
Finally, and most importantly are the cars. Rarely has such an amazing assemblage of muscle and sports cars been seen on film. Right from the opening scene, we are inundated with them. From a collection of a dozen red Ferraris including Enzos, F40s and 1960s vintage California Spyders to a host of BMWs, Maseratis and Alfa Romeo Formula One car, the viewer is simply dazzled by the cars on display. It gets to the point where one wonders how the film’s budget provided for all the insurance premiums on the cars present.
I’m a muscle car guy first and foremost though so in spite of the myriad of European beauties present, my two favorite cars in the film have to be a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette, resplendent in light metallic blue with its awesome looking quad headlamps and mouthy grille, and a breathtaking, midnight blue 1966 Shelby Cobra Mark III 427ci roadster, which we get to see tear up a stretch of the upper Corniche. What a joy to behold.
In the hands of a better director, and with a few more drafts of the script performed, Overdrive could have been a classic. Sadly though, because of all the aforementioned flaws, it never quite gets aloft. Were it not for the superlative cars I would have to pan the film, but I’ll begrudgingly give Overdrive five-and-a-half out of ten pistons.