Chad and Evan Law are a pair of talented brothers and the awesome writing team behind some of my favourite (and I feel strongest) DVD action movies in recent years, including Hero Wanted, The Hit List, One in the Chamber, Six Bullets and the forthcoming Daylight’s End. They recently worked on a new feature called Drive Hard, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
Their writing is tight, well structured and takes screenplays in an ambitious direction most lower budget action projects avoid altogether and play safe. If you’ve seen any of the titles listed above, you’ll realise this is not the case with the Law brothers. It’s evident they possess a storytelling scope and scale which separates them from other writers.
Much like those filmmakers with a similar mindset (case in point: their friend and frequent collaborator William Kaufman) the process seems to involve consciously breaking the mould and, essentially, writing and shooting their own version of a large scale movie. Based on time and budget constraints (the usual indie curse) they may need to find workarounds, but they still have the writing, actors, scale and, most importantly, ambition to push forward and defy expectation.
In the story of Drive Hard, a former race car driver is abducted by a mysterious thief and forced to be the wheel-man for a crime that puts them both in the sights of the cops and the mob. The film stars John Cusack, Thomas Jane and is directed by cult Anglo-Aussie filmmaker, Brian Trenchard-Smith, who Quentin Tarantino has even named as one of his all-time favourite directors.
This is a lighter action/comedy and not quite in the dark, moody vein of films like Hero Wanted, One in the Chamber and Six Bullets, which I would have preferred. However, this does offer something a little different. The result is funny, heavy on action (a little fighting and gunplay but mostly vehicular) and has some genuinely good dialogue and banter between the two leads. Inevitably each character isn’t portrayed in black and white ‘good guy vs bad guy’ terms and the two men become friends, or least acquaintances, during their turbulent time together.
Both Cusack and Jane turn in solid performances, although unfortunately some of the supporting players aren’t so strong. Another positive aspect which stands out is the the stunning backdrop of Queensland, Australia which plays a significant part in the film, rather than serving as wallpaper. This attribute sets it apart and it’s a location I’d like to see more in these movies. The film, overall, isn’t the most groundbreaking (also see Getaway or The Chase) and there are certainly elements which could have been fine-tuned here but it presents a good example of the modern chase movie delivered on a tighter budget than most, and with solid writing from the Law brothers.
Here’s hoping there’s plenty more work from this talented duo very soon. Next up, they’re down as the writing team on forthcoming projects like Burning Sun (teaming up again with director William Kaufman) while Chad is also involved in Close Range (the next planned Isaac Florentine/Scott Adkins pairing).
As the action genre is often dismissed for poor writing and the general view that story, characters and originality are pretty much an afterthought (and secondary) to fighting and explosions, it’s a welcome change to have writers doing these genre films justice and elevating action movies above and beyond expectation.
Drive Hard is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 26 May 2014. Check out the trailer below.