Rated: R for strong violence, some drug use and language.
Length: 98 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 41% favorable, 4.9/10 average
Budget: $24 million
Box Office: $47 million (23 U.S.,12 Intl., 12 DVD)
Written by: Tony & Joe Gayton (Salton Sea, Murder by Numbers)
Directed by: George Tillman, Jr. (Notorious, Men of Honor, Soul Food)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton
With: Tom Berenger, Carla Gugino, Mike Epps, and Xander Berkeley.
Recently released from jail for being the wheel man in a bank heist with his brother, Driver is now bent on revenge for the gang of thugs who stole their money, killed his brother, and only barely failed to kill him. Working against him is a psychologically clouded super-assassin and a pair of detectives.
Entertainment Value: B+
Generally speaking, I just assume that any movie with a poster like this is going to be fairly straightforward, and adequately entertaining. Rock tough, people die, brooding look, brooding look, brooding music…you get the point. What made this better than average was the interesting characters they introduced, such as the thug-turned-evangelist, the druggie cop trying to get his life together, and the insecure hitman. The action is over-the-top comic book stuff, but the movie curves enough in interesting ways to keep it from being boring.
Superficial Content: D-
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity C, Violence F, Language D
The biggest concern here is going to be violence, and there’s plenty enough of it to justify a solid R rating. Interestingly, language is really only just slightly over the PG-13 threshhold, and there’s no sexuality to speak of other than one brief scene in a strip club and another of a woman in bed, neither with any nudity. Drug use is heroin, and it’s more implied than shown.
Significant Content: B
Although you think this is going to be a straight-out revenge movie, the nuances that interfere with that are fascinating. For instance, Driver is certainly going after everyone without restraint, but in the process he always avoids harming cops and innocents, even helping them. But one sequence in particular has him pursuing one of the killers who is now a (truly) born-again Christian preacher with a family. And how he deals with this indicates some recognition of the possibility some people may be worth saving even if they deserve to die. The overall question of the movie whether revenge satisfies isn’t really answered, although probably the movie leans on the side of “yes.”
Artistic/Thought Value: B+
One of the thematic contrasts being drawn here is between Driver and Killer (yes, those are their script names). Everything here is in pairs: muscle car vs Ferrari, UFC vs Yoga, Muscle T/Leather jacket vs suit, and revolver vs automatic. These symbols help highlight the comparison between them, their motives, and their psychological health. Also, there are a variety of very interesting shot angles that show George Tillman, Jr. has an interesting future in filmmaking ahead of him. It reminded me a lot of the Jason Stathan film Revolver, although not quite as deep.
~What do you make of the fact that none of the characters have names, only role-description labels?
~Given the opportunity and no consequences, whom would you kill? Whom would you spare, if he otherwise deserved to die? What does a person’s answer to these questions say about him?
~Why does Driver spare the preacher? Does this seem consistent for him?
~What motivates Driver to kill compared with Killer? Would you describe Driver as a secure person? Is Killer secure in who he is? What is this movie trying to say about the insecurity of high-achieving people?
~What sort of a husband do you think Killer will make? In particular, what do you learn about Killer from his final encounter with Cop?
~What does it say about the audience of a revenge movie? Does it matter whether we prefer the vengeance to be just, unjust, principled, reluctant, or eager? Why do we like to see vengeance meted out against bad men?
~Does Driver qualify as a good man? Remember that he was a bank robber to begin with.
~Does this movie seem to endorse vengeance in the end? Keep in mind the role and/or message brought by Preacher.
~Is this movie Christian because of the presence of Preacher?
Overall Grade: B+
High-action, interestingly shot, and filled with unexpectedly interesting character contrasts.