The new Netflix Original movie Drive surely needs a different title. You wouldn’t want to confuse it with Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 modern neo-noir classic, even though this Bollywood ripoff of The Fast and the Furious is pretty much the polar opposite of it in terms of tone and aesthetic. Oh, and quality, which might explain why Tarun Mansukhani’s Hindi-language film blew through two theatrical release dates like yellow stoplights — a movie-biz sign of no-confidence — and ended up unceremoniously buried in Netflix menus, waiting to sabotage curious viewers with its relentless inanity.
DRIVE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Succinctly summing up Drive is like stuffing a Sherman tank into the dryer and hoping it shrinks to a wearable size. If I don’t survive, please tell my family I loved them and donate my overtaxed spleen to science.
Jacqueline Fernandez plays Tara, the Vin Diesel-type headmaster of a heist-happy crew of street racers. She’s introduced to us feet first: stiletto heels like ninja daggers, bronzed legs in a skirt slit high, neckline plunging all the way to Hell, swimsuit-photoshoot hair flip, exquisitely glossed ducklips, a Price is Right/rap-video model pose on the souped-up car she just used to torch her opponent. That would be Samar (Sushant Singh Rajput), a very handsome newcomer to the races she stages from her Big Boy Toyz garage/party house HQ. His alias is the King, a master thief competing for the same big-booty prizes as Tara and co., so it makes sense that they’d join forces, and no doubt become New Delhi’s scorching-hottest, most intellectually vacant, least emotionally developed couple!
At this point in the movie, we pause for a heavily choreographed, ultra glitzy Gatsby-Vegas-Bollywood musical sequence, for some reason. Oh, it’s the opening credits, but fear not, another one will derail the narrative later in the movie, so consider precedent set. Tara and Samar and their not-quite-as-beautiful pals want to bust into none other than the Rashtrapati Bhavan — the Presidential Palace — where a couple of corrupt officials are stashing majorly huge wads of illicitly obtained dough. Of course, the place is guarded like the Pope’s house during The Purge, requiring the laying-out of multiple convoltrapulated, skulldugged and subterfugey plans during split-screen, voiceover-narrated montages — plans that are so crazy, they just might work.
Irfan (Boman Irani) heads the task force trying to sniff out the crew’s shenanigans. Helping him are the very same nogoodnik cash-stashers, Vibha Singh (Vibha Chibber) and Hamid (Pankaj Tripathi) — it’s a small world after all. The plot also involves: undercover spies, codebusting, the wedding of two supporting characters, a vacation sequence cut like a music video, a hacker who exists to be smacked around by the good-guy agents even though he’s helping them, a jeweler’s stolen gold and, yes indeed, car chases. There’s more stuff, but I hereby abstain; consider it an act of mercy.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Drive has all the artifice of the Ocean’s and Fast/Furious movies, and none of the substance. “But,” you may ask, “don’t those movies lack substance?” Yes. Yes they do. But they look like Shakespeare in comparison.
Performance Worth Watching: Keep a close eye on anyone else who may be watching the movie, as the expressions they make as they try to puzzle through a hyperdense plot full of hairpin aha-it-was-the-plan-all-along twists will no doubt be priceless.
Memorable Dialogue: “It’s difficult to say if you are more sexy or your driving skills!” is a verbatim quote, via the subtitles, commenting on Fernandez’s character. Maybe it’s just lousy translation, but it unintentionally and astutely sums up the movie’s sloppy, meretricious approach to writing, direction, cinematography, editing, acting, music, art direction, special effects and pretty much every other fundamental component of filmmaking.
Sex and Skin: Just some skimpy outfits — which nicely complement the skimpy characters. [rimshot!]
Our Take: Google’s top-voted tags for Drive are as follows: “illogical,” “boring,” “unrealistic,” “bad acting,” “mindless,” “silly,” “unconvincing,” “childish,” “bad music” and “forgettable.” That’s a bingo!
Various supporting points for the above: When Mansukhani actually uses actual cars for actual chase sequences, he speeds up the film to make them go fast. The actual cars he uses appear to be fresh from the repo auction, gussied up with spraypaint and glued-on spoilers. When he doesn’t use actual cars, they’re Ferraris and Lamborghinis rendered with CGI so laughably bad, you may weep violently, heaving drool and snotballs into your sleeve. And even when he does use CGI, a medium capable of generating anything you can imagine, he can’t render the chases comprehensible. Action sequences were clearly assembled in the editing room, and the editing room was empty except for a Cuisinart stuck on “eviscerate.”
And that’s just the stuff you’re here to see. The dreck deposited between the chases is interminably stupid. The movie’s approach to plotting exhibits clear contempt for basic continuity and the precision of a drunken monkey on an open firing range. Some of the overdubbed dialogue sometimes cuts in the voices of different actors, in the same sentence. The acting is posing, but with words. There’s a why-bother approach to character development. And Mansukhani’s overall visual M.O. appears to be, why have one thing to look at when you can have 200?
Our Call: SKIP IT. Whether Drive is so bad it’s good, so unwatchable that it’s watchable, a crack-a-box-of-wine-and-invite-your-friends-over-for-a-hate-watch is debatable. I’m too bamboozled from the overwhelmingly stupefying experience of it to make a clear assessment right now. But if the filmmakers pull a Tommy Wiseau and say they actually intended it to be bad, I’ll call bullshit so fast it’ll leave tire tracks on their eyeballs.
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