Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 30th, 2021
Drive All Night (Peter Hsieh, 2021) 2 out of 4 stars.
There is much that I looked forward to in Drive All Night, given its concept, character dynamics and visual aesthetic. The promise of an abstract journey through an evening’s drive intrigued me, and the various possible outcomes and unfurling of events seemed limitless. However, by its conclusion, Drive All Night becomes lackluster and boring, harping on the same repetitive cinematic techniques and never launching off the ground with either satisfying entertainment or impactful ideas.
Drive All Night tells the story of taxicab driver Dave (Yutaka Takeuchi) as he gets a call from his next client: an arcade-game-playing Cara (Lexy Hammonds) who hides a dark secret. As Cara leads Dave to various locations throughout the night, Dave finds himself a passenger to stranger and more surreal experiences. What secret is Cara hiding from her taxi driver? And what does she plan for Dave as the night comes to a close?
Director Hsieh takes an interesting setup of characters and styles and hits the viewer over the head with immense repetition, leaving very little to surprise us with by the end. The start-to-finish narrative comes across as incredibly uninteresting, managing to be both predictable and confusing, as well as a painstakingly slow in its pacing. The style of editing becomes quite distracting to the viewer, and draws them out of the story at times.
What does work for Drive All Night is the film’s casting and direction. While the film may need a refresh in terms of editing, Takeuchi and Hammonds both carry the film with compelling rapport, accompanied by a supporting cast that keep the film interesting. The various abstract dreamlike sequences, while distracting and not directly reinforcing the plot, do add an interesting art direction to an otherwise plain production design.
As a complete film, Drive All Night simply works as an experiment to see how long the viewer can keep their eyes peeled on a series of monotonous back-to-back scenes before they lose interest entirely. Director Hsieh’s film simply moves too slowly for too simple a premise. Even the splashes of random (and enjoyable) arcade-game knowledge, intriguing monologues and beautiful aerial footage aren’t enough for the viewer to know, or care, about the events of the narrative.
[The 2021 Cinequest Film Festival ran March 20-30]