• Big Driver

    Released By: Lionsgate
    Released On: January 27, 2015.
    Director: Mikael Salomon
    Cast: Maria Bello, Ann Dowd, Will Harris, Joan Jett, Olympia Dukakis
    Year: 2014
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    The Film:

    Have you ever wondered what would happen if you crossed a Stephen King rape revenge story with a Lifetime TV movie? No, I haven't either. But if you have, you're in luck! Big Driver is here on DVD, and the very unlikely partnership makes for a wacky experience...in an interesting and enjoyable way.

    Tess Thorne (Maria Bello) is the author of a series of books based on a knitting circle of elderly ladies who also happen to be detectives. Although the premise seems odd, the books are hugely successful, offering Tess the opportunity to travel to various speaking engagements to discuss the characters and her writing process. After experiencing what she would deem a drive from hell travelling to one particular venue, Tess gladly accepts an offer of a "scenic shortcut" from her host, one that will keep her off of the traffic-snarled Interstate.

    Heading home down the country backroads and over cute little bridges is like a dream come true after the gruelling trip up, but good fortune is not in the cards for the author. A sharp bend in the road obscures a mess of nail-riddled boards from her Prius' front tire, and Tess finds herself stranded next to an abandoned gas station, unsure of how to deal with a flat. When a rock band touring van with the name "Zombie Bakers" blasts past her on the way to a gig, and with no cell service (of course) in the area, she's almost certain that she'll be stranded...but hope is on the horizon. Hope, in this case, is the enormous "Big Driver" a mountain of friendly redneck man in a pickup truck who seems eager to help the lady in distress. Unfortunately for Tess, the big guy is also a serial killer with a habit of repeatedly raping his victims before murdering them.

    Left for dead in a drainpipe, Tess miraculously survives the ordeal and makes it back home. Convinced that nobody will believe that the pretentious, stuck-up author wasn't asking for it in some way, she pieces together the events that led her to Big Driver and begins to write a new book. Conjuring up the imaginary spirits of her knitting detective characters, and with a nudge in the right direction from the spectacular Joan Jett, she formulates a plan that will make those responsible for her suffering pay for their misdeeds; and if her plan succeeds, there's going to be a whole lot of blood spilled by the time she finishes.

    Bizarre. That's the best way to sum up the film Big Driver. What could otherwise be closely compared to a film such as "I Spit On Your Grave" is slammed headlong into the Lifetime channel's penchant for showing stories with a strong female lead as inspiration. As such, you end up with a gruesomely violent revenge movie with grandmotherly apparitions clucking and giving matronly advice...on how to get away with murder. It's just...bizarre. But it works.

    That's not to say that it's perfect, by any stretch. Though the cast, Maria Bello in particular, are fantastic, and the direction is solid, there are some crazy plot holes and serious stretches of the imagination required for the film to work. Why is a woman in a Lifetime movie unable to change a tire? Where, within walking distance of a town, is there no cell signal? How are certain things in the film that should be impossible to figure out discovered just by talking them out with imaginary friends? But hey, let's not let logic get in the way of a good film. As mentioned, Bello and the cast are excellent. The film is just about the perfect running time, clocking in at about 90 minutes. And even though it does slow down during Bello's "Talking to myself a lot" moments, it starts and ends strongly. Mikael Salomon keeps the camera moving even when there's no action on the screen to keep it interesting, and the score is Subtle....with a capital "S"...but brooding and effective. For a "TV Movie" it does a number of things that TV Movies don't, and that works well to its advantage. And having Stephen King and the guy responsible for Three O'Clock High as the writers doesn't hurt either.

    It shouldn't work in a million years....but it does. Well.


    Big Driver comes to Lionsgate DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that looks great. A lot of the film is shot under dim or dark conditions, but the picture doesn't falter, maintaining strong detail. On the flip side, the bright scenes in the film look wonderfully crisp and clear. There may be an artifact in there somewhere, but I certainly didn't notice any.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is about as subtle as the score, with moderate use of the surrounds and sub. Dialogue is clear, and balanced well in the soundstage. No hisses or pops to be found, no diving for the remote.

    A promo reel for Lionsgate films can also be found on the disc.

    The Final Word:

    When you get surprised by a film, it's a great experience. Big Driver is a fun flick, and should catch people off guard with its strange mix of ingredients. Recommended.