In an industry dominated by bland, white leading men, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s blander than Scott Eastwood. A man who exudes about as much charisma as the rock his face appears to be chiselled out of, Eastwood has been in quite a few films I’ve seen – Snowden and Suicide Squad, to name a few – but I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about his roles there with a gun to my head. The only time he’s actually kind of stood out in something is The Fate of the Furious, which at least had the good sense to use his charisma-less husk of a character as a foil for Dominic Toretto’s insanely charismatic “family”. Unfortunately, he fares less well in Overdrive, the actor’s second go at a car-focused action flick this year.
Though Derek Haas and Michael Brandt’s (2 Fast 2 Furious, Wanted) script seems to try to paint Eastwood’s character Andrew Foster as a strong but silent leader type character, the actor simply isn’t magnetic enough for that to come across as believable. Instead, he just looks like he’s sleepwalking through the films’ plot. A plot that revolves around Andrew and his brother Garett (Freddie Thorp, wide-eyed and annoying), two car thieves who steal from the wrong guy (Casino Royale’s Simon Abkarian) and have to make it up to him by stealing a Ferrari from a billionaire (Clemens Schick, who was in Casino Royale too, in a bit part as Le Chiffre’s bodyguard). If that sounds simple enough on paper, Haas and Brandt throw in so many double crosses and rug-pulls that it doesn’t take long to become nigh incomprehensible, not to mention a bit of a chore.
Overdrive’s biggest flaw is that it wants to be a lot of things, but isn’t particularly good at any of them. It wants to be about the relationship between two brothers, but since Eastwood and Thorp have zero chemistry between each other that flag never flies. It doesn’t help that Thorp’s relentless mugging makes Garett feel more like a petulant child than the charming rogue he’s clearly meant to be. This is never more apparent than in the scenes where he sulks and moans about Andrew’s plans to marry his girlfriend Steph (Ana des Armas, doing the best she can with a thankless role), since he doesn’t want his brother to leave him on his own.
One of the other things Overdrive tries desperately to be is a Ocean’s 11 style heist movie, but to put it mildly, Eastwood and Thorp are no Clooney and Pitt, and the crew they assemble isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of talent either. Des Armas’ feisty Steph fares best, but she’s ultimately just side-lined and reduced to a damsel in distress. The rest of the crew – a pickpocket, a demolition expert, the nephew of the guy the brothers pissed off and four completely anonymous drivers – barely get enough to do to leave an impression.
Ultimately, the main thing this film is trying to be is car-porn and it fares slightly better in that respect. The product placement gets a bit ridiculous – there are scenes concerning a Ferrari that constitute the most shameless piece of advertising in a film like this since Kurt Russell magically conjured up a bucket full of Corona’s in Furious 7. There’s also a scene in a garage where Thorp and Eastwood just rattle off a full list of brand names – but if you like seeing lots of big, beautiful cars you are definitely in the right place here. However, when it comes to utilizing those cars, we’re on rockier ground again.
Director Antiono Negret utilizes the kind of choppy camerawork and editing that plagues a lot of these PG-13 action vehicles, which ultimately runs the action scenes into the ground. Not that they’re especially interesting to begin with. The closest the film comes to having a memorable action scene is the climactic car chase, which makes pretty good use of the excellent scenery the setting of Marseille provides, but quickly becomes confusing thanks to the high number of participants. Other set pieces, like the opening heist scene or a lengthy foot chase through Marseille’s city centre, are so boringly staged they fade from memory the moment they’re over.
In the end, Overdrive is neither good enough to recommend nor bad enough to be labelled an interesting failure. It’s just sort of there, languishing for about 90 minutes before ending with a wholly unearned sequel hook that feels more like the ending of a bad television show than that of a movie. It’s the kind of movie where the bad guy kills one of his henchmen in his first scene not because he has any reason to, but because genre tropes dictate that’s what villains in these kind of movies do. It’s that kind of strict adherence to the genre rulebook that ultimately makes Overdrive just as boring as its leading man.