There are plenty of movies where rideshares, taxi trips, and picking up hitchhikers turn out badly, but not nearly as many where it’s the man who really ends up getting the worst part of the deal. Night Drive presents an entirely new take on this concept. Writer, Meghan Leon (who also directs this film along with Brad Baruh), has really given us a fast paced and unique story that manages to be both savage and fun in equal parts.
Russell, played by AJ Bowen, is a down on his luck rideshare driver who seems to have a knack for making all the wrong choices. This streak continues when he picks up Charlotte (Sophie Dalah) who is all too willing to pay him extra, in cash, to make some additional stops as long as she doesn’t have to enter them into the rideshare app. Sure, it’s suspicious (she appears to have an unlimited supply of hundred-dollar bills), but she’s cute and quickly starts building a friendly rapport with Russell. She even gives him a playful nickname as though they are old friends. The chemistry between Bowen and Dalah is almost tangible, but the story never veers into a needless and awkward romance angle.
The real highlight of this film is Bowen. As Russell, he tells us just a few minutes in that he is charming, and he then proceeds to deliver on that for the next 90 minutes. You like Russell and relate to him right away. You can also see how he is quickly enticed to buy into Charlotte’s chaotic and cryptic agenda. After stopping for a couple of “getting to know each other” beers, the plot really kicks into gear as Russell accidentally hits a man with his car. Naturally, he wants to call the police, but Charlotte points out, as one always does in movies, that if they do that he will surely go to jail because of those two innocent beers. This perfectly sets Russell up into an impossible situation. He has to go along with the rest Charlotte’s schemes as they’ve both now, presumably, killed a man. Russell is about two steps behind Charlotte at every turn, which only entangles him more deeply into a plot that seems to have no way out.
Although I would not quite a “horror-comedy,” it is both fun and funny, while not holding back on the brutality. At one point Russell watches in shock as Charlotte renders a body unidentifiable and then proceeds to eat chips with bloody fingers as though she does this every day. Night Drive pulls together elements of road trip and heist movies while keeping the audience wondering exactly what Charlotte has gotten Russell into. I won’t spoil the reveal, but when the twist happens, you’re suddenly in a whole different kind of movie that I definitely did not see coming! The conclusion, while a bit open ended, is satisfying leaving the viewer with just the right balance of answers and remaining loose ends.
Night Drive is currently screening at the 2021 Chattanooga Film Festival