Wednesday, July 4, 2012

In short: Driving Force (1989)

aka Roadwars

The Future. The US have hit an apocalyptic economical crisis, even further deepening the divide between the rich and the poor. Law enforcement is corrupt and unavailable if you aren't rich enough, and everyone hustles somehow to survive.

Well, at least gas is still cheap, or that's how I explain that former engineer Steve (Sam Jones) has finally found a new job as a tow truck driver to keep himself and his little daughter, sugary sweet Becky (Stephanie Mason), in bread. Sam's a basically decent chap, so it does not take long until his classical view of the tow trucking business comes into conflict with a trio of rogue tow truck drivers led by the psychopath Nelson (Don Swayze, Patrick's even less talented brother). Nelson and his crew are what happens when the no-good post-apocalyptic punks of other post-apocalypse films finally get a job: tow truck drivers who cause the accidents they survive on themselves and blackmail people into paying them. In the end, the streets won't be broad enough for Steve and Nelson's crew.

As if a trio of psycho punks weren't enough of a problem for our hero, he is also fighting a custody battle for Becky against her grandparents, who are rich and evil and will therefore get their dirty, manicured hands on Becky sooner or later.

Somehow, Steve still manages to romance good rich girl Harry (Catherine Bach) during all this, but their love story is as boring as it is trite.

By 1989, when the Filipino/US co-production Driving Force was shot, everything had already been done in the post-apocalyptic movie genre. Or nearly everything, as director Andrew Prowse and screenwriter Patrick Edgeworth must have decided in a moment of genius/madness. Really, who wouldn't want to see a movie about post-apocalyptic tow truck drivers? (As always, don't answer that, please).

As goofy as the film's basic idea sounds, as basically decent seems its early execution. This is one of those movies that are more inspired by the first Mad Max film, taking place in a post-apocalyptic world where the old social structures have not entirely broken down, but are deteriorating fast. Thanks to its world still being so (uncomfortably) close to the world as we know it, the movie gets by fine with a few shots of grubby back roads, run-down buildings and people in dirty clothes to set up a somewhat satisfying idea of what this particular post-apocalypse is all about. Even the evil tow truck brigade makes a certain degree of sense in a pulp fiction kind of way.

Unfortunately, Prowse doesn't seem to know what's actually good and entertaining about his film, and adds that stupid custody battle storyline and that unpleasantly cutesy kid to the whole she-bang. Whenever the custody plotline starts, the movie turns from a mild, yet entertaining exploitation movie into Lifetime Channel family movie fodder that drags the film's pacing and my patience down very quickly. I blame Over the Top. The added love story is not much better.

It's always too bad when a film so clearly neither knows what it wants nor where its strengths lie, but that's exactly the case with Driving Force. It's a film that permanently sabotages itself, and becomes unnecessarily boring over long stretches.

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