Overdrive

Going in to Scott Eastwood’s new movie, “Overdrive,” I wasn’t expecting much. I had seen the trailer for the movie in front of “Atomic Blonde” while on vacation in France two months ago, and immediately dismissed it out of hand as a wannabe “Fast and Furious” type. I just tuned it out the way you tune out a commercial while watching last week’s episode of “The Good Place” on Hulu. If I had been paying attention, I might have noticed it was primarily in Marseilles, where I had been not two days earlier. So when I read about this tidbit two months later, I decided to check it out. And what I ended up getting was something that, while note a great movie, was quite a bit of fun, and better than any of the “Fast and Furious” movies they’ve been making for the past decade.

Although, I must admit, while I was sitting there thinking to myself “Hey, I just ate there! Hey, that’s the hotel I stayed in! Hey, I just bought soap there! Hey, I just climbed a small mountain to get to that church!” I almost immediately gave up on the film when it announced it was going to be just another in the ever-growing “one last job before I go legit” genre of films that have plagued cinemas in the past several years. Because you know what’s going to happen in these types of movies. Someone close to the lead is going to get maimed or killed. The lead is going to find himself in a situation that seems to have no clear path of escape, only to have a literal deus ex machina drop at the most convenient moment. You know, stuff like that. And when you see the script for “Overdrive” is by the duo of writers who also wrote the second “Fast and Furious” movie as well as created all the “Chicago _____” shows on CBS, it’d be a safe assumption to presume you’ve travelled down this path before. But hey, at least there’s some classic cars and elaborate car chases through exotic locales to distract from the expected inanity.

But then, you start to notice that the writers and director Antonio Negret (who has directed several episodes of various Arrowverse shows on the CW) aren’t really interested in making just another car chase/one last job movie. The “Fast and Furious” template is a misdirection for something you might not expect from this type of film, and something I don’t want to spoil on you, dear reader, if you haven’t already spotted it elsewhere, suffice to say that this these plot beats (which some of the people I watched the movie with in the screening room didn’t get even after I had to explain it to them after the show was done) is why the film gets a recommendation from me.

Which is not to say the film doesn’t have problems, because it does. Not a single character is developed at all, save a few minor throwaway moments of exposition meant to fill in backstory and running time. There’s an awkward and unnecessary romance between the second male and female leads that leads to a cute but unearned payoff at the very end. The main characters, who are supposed to be planning a major heist of a classic and rare Ferrari to escape being killed by a gangster from whom the unwittingly stole a classic Bugatti from at the start of the film, seem to spend more time partying through the very picturesque Marseilles region instead of making sure they don’t get killed (which, admittedly, gets accounted for by the end). And while the two lead females (Ana De Armas, who will also be seen this weekend in the new “Blade Runner” film, and Gaia Weiss, previously seen on “Vikings”) are quite attractive, that’s mostly their job in this film: be attractive.

Where this film will likely find its audience is with the petrolheads who love shows like “Top Gear” and “The Grand Tour,” for the rare classic cars featured throughout (occasionally filmed in the same kind of slow-motion close-ups the two above mentioned shows love to use) are a who’s who of the most desired cars in modern history. Cars you and I could never dream of coming within a hundred feet of outside a car museum, let alone driving or owning. I’m not much of a gearhead, even though I did drive a 1972 Mustang Mach One Fastback for several years back in the late 90s and early 00s, but one doesn’t need to know that the most prized car in the film, a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe (as seen on the right in the photo used at the top of this review) is even rarer than a Tucker 48 to know that it’s a stunning car and you would be REALLY PISSED if anything happens to it before the end credits roll!

If this film had received a proper American theatrical release sometime in the late summer, instead being given a token release in theatres the same day it arrives on VOD in the early fall, it might have been able to have a mildly successful time at the box office and helped to move Mr. Eastwood closer to the level of stardom his dad started to achieve a half-century earlier. But, alas, the film will have to find its audience through word of mouth and dumb luck, and that’s a shame. It deserved better.

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