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If the old 42nd Street grindhouses still existed, John Cusack would be its reigning star. The once A-list actor has seemingly become relegated to the sorts of exploitative B-movies that once ruled the now demolished strip of double-feature showing theaters where his latest effort, Drive Hard, would have been a strong attraction.
The simple plot of Brian Tenchard-Smith’s comic actioner, which took no less than four screenwriters to concoct, concerns the forced collaboration between Peter (an unflatteringly shaggy-haired Thomas Jane), a former race car driver now relegated to eking out a meager living as a driving instructor, and Simon (Cusack), his new pupil. Despite the film’s Australian setting, both characters are American, eliminating the need for those pesky forced accents.
Peter, who was forced to give up his former occupation by his successful lawyer wife (Tessa Roberts), is hardly enthused to be teaching the squirrely Simon who wants to learn how to drive on the other side of the road. But his true intentions soon become clear when he forces Peter at gunpoint to become his getaway driver in a bank heist that nets him a smooth $9 million in bearer bonds.
The two men are soon pursued by squabbling state and federal law enforcement authorities, as well as the shady bank’s private security forces who display no preference for capturing them alive. Despite his lack of a criminal background, Peter is assumed to be Simon’s willing accomplice, with even his own wife not believing his fervent denials.
Essentially a chase movie infused with buddy comedy elements, the film is a fast-paced, mildly entertaining lark that’s chiefly enlivened by Cusack’s droll performance as the wisecracking criminal who’s quick to offer marital advice to his henpecked driver. The dialogue is frequently fast and funny—“What, is there no shortage of criminals?” protests Peter at his forced collaboration—with the pair bickering like an old married couple.
In the process of evading their multitude of pursuers, they have colorful encounters with a pistol-packing grannie; a shotgun-toting convenience store clerk whose maladroit way with his weapon results in an accident that would surely please Quentin Tarantino; and a gang of shitkicker bikers at a bar.
By the time the picaresque tale has reached its conclusion, the experience has so changed the hangdog Peter that when he’s reunited with his wife their sex life is miraculously restored to its former glory. There’s a message there somewhere, but probably not one that should be taken too seriously, an attitude that can be similarly applied to this divertingly trivial B-movie.
Production: Odyssey Media
Cast: John Cusack, Thomas Jane, Zoe Ventoura, Christopher Morris, Yesse Spence, Jerome Ehlers
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Screenwriters: Brigitte Jean Allen, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Chad Law, Evan Law
Producers: Pam Collis, Paul O’Kane, Kirk Shaw
Executive producers: Kirk Shaw, Dan Grodnik, James M. Vernon, Dominic Rustram, Babacar Diene
Director of photography: Tony O’Louglan
Editor: Peter Carrodus
Production designer: Jon Dowding
Costume designer: Monica O’Brien
Composer: Bryce Jacobs
Casting: Dean E. Fronk, Donald Paul Pemrick
No rating, 92 min.
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