Movie Review: Cusack Meets Janes in Oz in “Drive Hard”

drivehardshot2stars1Here’s the sort of scruffy action comedy that suits the post-box office-draw careers of one-time hipster John Cusack and fading action star Thomas Jane. It covers the costs of a fun few weeks of working vacation in Australia and provides a few on-screen laughs along the way.
The pairing of these two is kind of a lark. Make Cusack some sort of hitman/crook, a variation on his “Grosse Pointe Blank” hitman, and Jane a semi-retired and over-extended race car driver abducted to be the crook’s getaway car driver.
All that can come from that is “Drive Hard.”
Jane is Peter Roberts, married to an Aussie attorney, father of a smart-mouthed tween. No, we’ve never seen “The Punisher” like this. He can’t get sponsorship to drive Down Under, so he runs a driving school. That’s where Keller (Cusack) finds him.
The American never takes off his gloves, black baseball cap or shades and only slowly lets on that, aside from sitting on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the road, he doesn’t need lessons. As they hurtle up and down Australia’s Gold Coast, the banter comes fast and furious. Especially when Keller gets Roberts to wait for him outside a bank, which gloved man promptly robs. It’s handy to have a race car driver when you’re in a tiny driving school econo-box trying to outrun the cops.
“You see why I hired you?”
“You DIDN’T hire me, you KIDNAPPED me!”
“SeMANtics.”
Cusack is an old hand at this sort of fast, flippant repartee. So Jane is the real surprise. They need to swap cars, so they dash into a vineyard hotel where a wedding’s supposed to take place.
“Turn yourself in,” Roberts hisses, so loudly the elderly clerk can hear him.
“We WILL…turn in, once it’s BEDTIME…sweetheart,” Cusack purrs, raising the old lady’s eyebrow at how gay couples argue.
Before they’re done, they will brawl with that foul-mouthed old biddy (Carol Burns) and try to evade the police and the mobsters whom Keller has crossed as Roberts’ wife (Yesse Spence) yanks their kid out of school and breaks the news about dad to the media-savvy child.
“Is Daddy dead?”
No no he’s not dead.
“Terrorist?”
Rebecca, no. Your father’s no terrorist.
“Daddy’s robbed a baaaaa-aank, Daddy’s robbed a baa-ank.”
The “Hard” driving isn’t very impressive, despite being a film from the land of “The Road Warrior.” It never rises above the simple formula that got it made. But a couple of dozen random laughs suggest that if “Drive Hard” is these two leading men’s lot in life, they could do a lot worse.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with gun violence and some profanity
Cast: John Cusack, Thomas Jane
Credits: Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, written by Brigitte Jean Allen, Chad Law, Evan Law. An RLJ Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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