You know those really awkward moments in movies where you, as the viewer, actually feel embarrassed that you’re watching them? Moments that make you cringe so hard that you feel like you’re about to turn yourself inside out? Well, Overdrive as a whole felt that way: a cringey, cheap and flat discount version of Redline. Not Fast and Furious. Redline.
Lauded as a Fast and Furious spinoff, Overdrive was conceived by the writers of 2 Fast 2 Furious, directed by Antonio Negret and produced by the guy who directed Taken. Those seemed like promising credentials! Sadly, they were not.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
Scott Eastwood, who had supporting roles in both The Fate of the Furious and Suicide Squad, landed a leading role in Overdrive as Andrew Foster. Together, with Freddie Thorp playing his half-brother, Garrett Foster, the two make up two-thirds of a band of high-stakes, international car thieves.
But when they are caught stealing a Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic from Jacomo Morier (Simon Abkarian), a powerful drug lord, they negotiate a deal with him: steal rival villain Max Klemp’s (Clemens Schick) multi-million-dollar Ferrari 250 GTO in exchange for their lives.
I suppose the very best thing I could say about this movie is that the cars are awe-inspiringly pretty to look at. You get to see an Alfa Romeo 158, Aston Martin V8 Volante, Ford Mustang, Jaguar E-Type, Jaguar XK120 and a Porsche 356 A Speedster, along with the Bugatti and Ferrari mentioned above. They cars are all pristine and beautifully lit and shot—like watching a Petrolicious video. If some are replicas, you’d be none the wiser.
And that, unfortunately, is where the goodness ends.
I went into this movie knowing that full well it was going to be bad. Objectively bad. But I clung to this hope for it to be subjectively good—like Redline and the Fast and Furious movies: car/heist movies that were fun and over-the-top, with a kind of self-assured swagger from knowing that the show they were putting on danced right on the line of being just absurd enough that its audience would throw up its hands and go, “Alright, fine! Carry on.” Like Shoot ‘Em Up? We need more of those movies.
Overdrive utterly failed accomplish that. And not for lack of trying, either. But the problem was the overall feel of the movie; it took itself too seriously and told dumb jokes that you were expected to laugh at immediately without first giving you a chance to know the characters well enough and decide if they were actually funny.
I found myself constantly jarred out of following along with the story because of distractions like lapses in logic (casually having drinks with friends while there was a threat on their lives), questionable decisions (attaching real names to crimes committed) and grossly blatant product placement (in one scene, the camera fixates on Freddie Thorp carefully putting his BMW M3 into “Sport Plus” mode before chasing down a semi-truck, signifying that things were, in fact, about to Get Real).
The film relied heavily on info-dumping voiceovers to introduce new characters and backstory, and even those felt hurried and partially fleshed-out. There were way too many close-up shots of Scott Eastwood’s face looming on the screen as he mannishly stared down opponents and made tough decisions. I’m a general fan of his, but I hope this wasn’t the movie he was hinging his big break on. Halfway through, another critic seated in front of me capped his pen and quietly slipped his notebook back into his bag.
At the very least, I thought, the final chase scene involving all of the spectacular vintage cars at the end would be engaging. But once the scene unfolded, it wasn’t really a chase scene so much as it was a group of vintage cars driving—briskly—on a mountain road.
If Overdrive did have any charm, it was buried in the lightning fast and perilously short cuts, which made me feel like the film was nervous that I might lose interest if it focused on one subject for too long.
I’m trying to figure out why I just didn’t engage with this movie like I did with other car and heist movies, like Fast Five or Ocean’s Eleven or The Italian Job. I think it’s because those movies, even though you were technically rooting for criminals, had some semblance of heart. The cause was noble. The ends justified the means.
Nobody in Overdrive was noble. Or honorable. The team’s overarching objective was never made clear (steal cars just because?), except for the bit about saving their own hides. Which—making a movie where everyone is kind of an asshole—bold! But if you do that, you have to give me something else to root for. Merely “getting away with it” at the end isn’t enough.
Overdrive opens in theaters, on-demand and digital HD on Oct. 6.