Well, this is a strange one. Drive All Night, writer-director Peter Hsieh’s debut feature is certainly memorable even if it isn’t quite sure what sort of film it wants to be. Mellow taxi driver Dave (Yutaka Takeuchi) picks up mysterious passenger Cara (Lexy Hammonds), who gives him the titular instruction of the title – drive all night. What follows is a surreal, neon-dripping trip through the city, with increasingly bizarre stops along the way.
Hsieh clearly has his favourite filmmakers, and here he imitates both the stylistic sensibilities of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive – complete with neo-noir aesthetic, synth score, and an adoration of patches on jackets – and the much more surreal and non-linear narratives of David Lynch. If that didn’t sound hipster enough for you, on top of all that he overlays a synthetic film grain filter, and then has his characters spout reels of facts about classic videogames and craft beer. I don’t think the layer upon layer of millennial film school cliché is meant to be ironic, but at times it really does feel it.
Criticism of pastiche aside, there is a fair amount in here to admire. Takeuchi and Hammonds make for an interesting central pairing, beginning with a clear divide between the two of them that slowly falls away as the narrative progresses. It’s a shame the other roles don’t get as much time to shine, with Johnny Gilligan’s supposed hitman Lenny feeling particularly poorly done by. He’s so far behind his prey at every turn his role feels more than a little pointless.
And yes, whilst the visuals are a little bit overdone, there’s some clear beauty here. The overhead drone shots of the city may well just be stock footage the filmmakers have purchased, but the set the mood well, and the set pieces our characters move between undeniably all stand out in their own strange ways. The dream sequences we frequently jump into perhaps don’t hold up, feeling a little silly at times, but they’re lit and shot competently enough to keep you watching.
Whilst this isn’t something I’d rush out to see in a cinema were we living in more normal times, I certainly wouldn’t say to sitting down one evening with a drink in hand and watching this. At a swift yet solid 90-minutes it’s not an enormous commitment, and there’s more than enough in here to keep a film fan interested. A mainstream audience perhaps not, but I reckon there will be fans out there for this, even if they watch with a half mocking glint in their eye.
Tickets for Drive All Night at Cinequest’s virtual screening room are on sale now through March 30th at: www.cinequest.org
Do you plan to see the movie? Have you already? Let me know in the comments!
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