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In this latest directorial effort from Brian Trenchard-Smith (the man who gave us Stunt Rock and Escape 2000 among plenty of other Ozlpoitation classics!), Thomas Jane plays Peter Roberts, a former race car driver who has given all of that up for the quiet life. He now makes his living as a driving instructor. He's not a wealthy man but he makes enough to support himself, his wife Tessa (Yesse Spence) and his daughter and he lives on the Gold Coast of Australia, which judging by the scenery shown in this movie, looks like a pretty nice place to hang your hat.
The problem is, however, that Peter is bored by his domesticated status. Things take an interesting shift one day when he takes an appointment with a visiting American named Simon Keller (John Cusack). Peter never once questions why a tourist hanging out in Australia temporarily would want to take driving lessons, he just honors the appointment but soon learns that Simon is in fact a bank robber and that he's going to force Peter to be the wheelman on his current job. Simon pulls off the job, hops in the car and off they go, cops in hot pursuit of course. As they journey down the Australian coast they not only have to hide out from the cops and a federal agent named including Walker (Zoe Ventoura) but also avoid a few assorted random bad guys, get into it with a foul mouthed geriatric lady (a scene stealing Carol Burns) and of course, form an unusual friendship together.
Drive Hard delivers pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the above story breakdown and it is a remarkably unoriginal film in many ways. You know what's going to happen, you know how it's going to turn out and you know how the characters are going to not only bound but improve one another's situation. Peter gets from Simon another chance to live an exciting life and the opportunity to talk to another guy about his marital woes while Simon gets from Peter a look at the merits of settling down and doing things in a more socially acceptable way. They play off one another in that regard and while the story may be old hat, you've got to give it to Jane and Cusack for at least making the most of the derivative script.
The two seasoned actors seem to be having a really good time here, and hey, they are hanging out on the Australian coast, so that aspect of their performances in the movie is probably legit. Outside of that however, to do the snappy banter thing well and handle the comedic side of this chase movie/buddy comedy with ease. There's just enough depth to their respective parts that they get to emote here and there but most of the film focuses not on the dramatic side of things but on the comedic and action oriented opportunities offered by the script and the situations that unfold. There is some impressive stunt driving here that helps to keep things visually exciting. When the movie does start to wander off course and get into the dramatic side, it hurts the pacing as it's just not done well enough to hold our attention or add much to the story. This does happen a few times throughout the film but not enough to kill it.
The movie is nicely shot and those few dramatic scenes notwithstanding, pretty quickly paced. It doesn't give either actor a whole lot of room to stretch but they play their parts well. There's enough violence, action and smart talk here that fans of this type of thing will get what they want out of it, even if they probably won't find themselves going back to it time and time again. Drive Hard is perfectly generic, light entertainment, no more… no less.The Blu-ray:
Drive Hard is presented on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Shot on high end digital video the image is pretty much pristine and obviously there are no issues with heavy grain or print damage, dirt or debris. Color reproduction is very strong here, bold colors look really good when they aren't being intentionally oversaturated (which does tend to happen a lot and it honestly doesn't help the look of the movie). Black levels are also strong, nice and deep and free of any heavy crush. Detail is typically very strong here, in close ups and long distance/medium shots as well (you can really note the dust on the cars in certain scenes), while texture is also pretty solid. All in all the movie looks quite good.Sound:
The only audio option provided on the disc is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with optional English closed captioning provided. As you'd expect for an action movie this recent, the mix is a pretty engaging one. The more intense scenes, like the driving and stunt sequences for example, really benefit from the depth of the lossless mix and feature some great directional effects. Additionally dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable throughout the duration of the movie. There are no problems at all with even a trace of hiss or distortion while depth and clarity are quite good as well. The score also features good range and depth.Extras:
Extras are limited to menus and chapter selection. Trailers for a few unrelated Image properties do play before the main menu screen loads. As this is a combo pack release, however, there's also a DVD version of the movie included in the keepcase. This release also comes with a cardboard slipcover.Final Thoughts:
Drive Hard is really nothing to write home about, but despite its lack of originality it is at least mildly entertaining and Jane and Cusack are amusing enough in their respective roles. Image's Blu-ray doesn't have a whole lot going on in terms of extras but it looks and sounds good. Periodic pacing issues aside, there's enough fun to be had here that this is worth a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.