Eye For Film >> Movies >> Night Drive (2021) Film Review
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
A two-hander, often confined to a single vehicle, there might be shades of Drive or Collateral, but that Tiptronic Aristotlean unity is shared with other fare like 4x4 and Locke. This is discomfiting in places, smoothing over the occasional bounce with a uniformity of look and tone. Pedants might object to it being dated to the 22nd day of Christmas but error and repetition are indicative.
When talking about films there is an expectation created by using the word 'twist', and even in the act of typing it an expectation is created. Yet Night Drive isn't just about expectations, spurning winding roads for the suburban and motorway emptiness of Los Angeles.
Indeed, for all the turns it's the two central - AJ Bowen as rideshare driver Russel, and Sophie Dalah's Charlotte - that convey us best. He, older, sufficiently on his uppers to be using a pristine Porsche Cayenne SUV in the app-driven gig economy, she, younger, sufficiently irreverent and Australian to call him Rusty and be less perturbed by blood.
That's not the twist. I could mention Stalker, but it's perhaps more like Nightcrawler. I could reference Mulholland Drive, but the mystery box is more like Ronin. Indeed, if any film might serve as primer for the explosive revelations to mention it might be to give away elements, and twist isn't right.
Instead it's more of a change of gear. Assured and powerful, but, to extend the metaphor, not possessed of a dual-clutch. It's smooth, but not one that we get much build up to. Instead things that had been separated are brought together at speed, and for a moment grip seems lost.
Co-Writers Meghan Leon and Brad Baruh, who also co-direct, have experience behind the scenes of various Disney juggernauts. This is nimbler, smaller, pacier. At a breezy 80ish minutes it manages an ending that asks questions of us without indulging too much in the temptation to dig up answers.
Bowen and Dalah have worked together before, in another Brad Baruh picture, the similarly bisyllabic Dead Night. That titular familiarity is extended by the fact that there's some half dozen or more shorts called Night Drive though they too run a thematic gamut. So too Michael McQuilken's score, which manages to support tonal shifts quite ably. There are also songs by Stargunn, a project of Shooter (son of Waylon) Jennings. The country-ish vibe serves at times as a reminder that there's little more West than the City of Angels, and often not much more wild.
There are some nice lines, someone is described as "resourceful and kind of deviant" and given opportunity to demonstrate both. The passage of time is discussed, past lives and events occurring when someone was "just a zygote". There's an important house which looks familiar, but that's probably because it's a particular kind of structure. Less deja vu than not being able to visit the same ranch home twice.
There's also reward in detail. Not just the structure of the central case but tell-tale ginger ale. Shot before, set in 2018, release seems to have been delayed but it does not suffer from it. Its action is sufficiently dependent upon time and space that a bit of dislocation does it good. A sequence in a hardware store perhaps overextends on the reaction shots but still works.
This is done on a tiny budget but that can go a long way now. There's some projection, I think, because that's got to be cheaper than a trailer. There's what appears to be a CG road sign because that's probably now also cheaper than location. Efficiency is no bad thing. While it handles some weight of subject like its white whale of a conveyance it keeps it moving along lightly through the dark.
When Charlotte first gets into the car she asks if there's "water or lollies". Night Drive might not be as refreshing or sweet, but it still gets to its destination efficiently.Reviewed on: 04 Aug 2021