26th Aug2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘Night Drive’ Review

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: AJ Bowen, Sophie Dalah, Scott Poythress | Written by Meghan Leon | Directed by Meghan Leon, Brad Baruh

Russell (AJ Bowen; Satanic Panic, I Trapped the Devil) is a rideshare driver with a Porsche. That’s about all he has left after his career and marriage fell apart. So when Charlotte (Sophie Dalah; Satanic) starts offering him large amounts of cash to cancel his plans and drive her around the city, and not log it in his app, he agrees. She comes running out of her first stop with a small box, and her ex in hot pursuit. But that’s just a taste of what’s to come. When they accidentally hit a pedestrian Charlotte convinces him not to call the police, she can help him get rid of the body. When the body steals the Porche and drives off into the night, that’s when it really gets weird.

Set against the backdrop of Christmas in Los Angeles, Night Drive is the latest rideshare-based genre film, following in the tire tracks of Spree, Ryde or Die, Driven and many others. Writer Meghan Leon and co-director Brad Baruh (Dead Night) have concocted a plot that’s somewhere between Kiss Me Deadly, Collateral and After Hours as Charlotte drags Russel, or Rusty as she calls him, on an insane trip that will change his life. If he survives.

Apart from a mysterious guy named Frank (Scott Poythress; The Signal, Devil’s Knot) who is somehow involved in all of this, Night Drive is a two-character film. Thankfully as well as being talented performers, Bowen and Dalah have excellent chemistry and play off of each other in a way that’s amusing and helps make a script full of outrageous things believable.

Not to slight Bowen’s performance but much of that believability rests on Dalah. She convincingly plays Charlotte as that cute, weirdly charming girlfriend you want to keep believing even as the bullshit gets deeper and the lies more obvious. Only in Night Drive it’s blood, not bullshit, and the secret she’s hiding is well beyond sleeping with your best friend. And we have to believe she can keep Russell charmed enough to follow her through things that would send other people running.

And that secret, based on the response from Night Drive’s festival run, is going to get some polarized responses. And I can see where viewers who were expecting a straight thriller will feel like it comes out of nowhere. I’m not going to spoil it, but I will say that you probably don’t want to expect anything in this film to be conventional. It’s one where the pieces all fit together, but the final picture isn’t what you expect.

An engaging thriller with a nice dose of dark comedy, Night Drive is a film to go into knowing as little as possible. Its twists and surprises are too much fun to have spoiled.

**** 4/5

Night Drive screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest London event.

Review originally posted on Voices From the Balcony

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