Scott Eastwood and Freddie Thorp co-star as career criminals in “Transit” director Antonio Negret’s “Overdrive” (*** OUT OF ****), a slickly-made, adrenalin-laced, hijack thriller lensed on the picturesque French Riviera about cunning car thieves. Our two heroic hellions aren’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill thieves. Instead, they steal priceless antique automobiles that car enthusiasts would die for. Clocking in at a nimble 92-minutes, this polished but predictable little car caper comes equipped with careening auto chases as well as several high-octane explosions. The villains with whom they tangle are naturally ruthless and have no qualms about murder. “2 Fast 2 Furious” scenarists Michael Brandt and Derek Haas have engineered the usual number of surprises and reversals along the way not only to generate suspense but also to keep audiences’ guessing as the authorities close in on the heroes and the villains. Every character in “Overdrive” is crooked in one way or another, and neither our handsome heroes nor their cute girlfriends are entirely virtuous. Indeed, they are as unprincipled as their continental villains, but they aren’t as evil as the antagonists with whom they contend. “Overdrive” is a wholly disposable thriller that will make you forget about the 92 minutes you’ll wind up watching it and keep you entertained until its volatile finale. Perhaps the biggest name associated with this straight-to-video saga belongs to its foremost producer—Pierre Morel—known best for directing such surefire hits as “District B13,” “From Paris with Love,” “The Gunman,” and the Liam Neeson revenge yarn “Taken.” Morel was looking over Negret’s shoulder the entire time, but young Columbian director Antonio Negret proves that he is no slouch and eventually he will prove himself to be a formidable action helmer himself.
Andrew (Scott Eastwood of “Suicide Squad”) and Garrett Foster (Freddie Thorp of “The Head Hunter”) are step-brothers. They share the same father, but they came from different mothers. These two have acquired a reputation as legendary car thieves. As “Overdrive” unfolds, a little tension has grown between them because Garrett fell head over heels for a girl who charmed him enough to steal a Ferrari that Andrew and he had boosted during a caper in Brazil. Poor Garrett hasn’t gotten over the shame of being duped by a sexy siren. Nevertheless, Andrew and he have shifted their activities to the French Riviera where they have found classic cars galore. When we meet them, they are preparing to steal a vintage, black 1937 Bugatti Type 57 that has just been sold at auction for the staggering sum of $41 million. The owner is having the vehicle transported to his country estate via a tractor-trailer. A trustworthy armed guard has been assigned to ride shotgun, and he has no compunctions about shooting people. The first scenes in any movie are designed to set the tone and give you a rough idea whether it lives up to your standards. Director Antonio Negret seizes our attention from the start as our thieving heroes hijack the Bugatti. Improbable as their audacious plan appears, Andrew launches himself off a bridge that the tractor-trailer rig will be passing under. At the precise moment that he reaches the optimal point of descent—a cable is attached to his ankle—he will activate a mechanism that will release him. If all goes well, he will land atop the eighteen-wheeler. The best thrillers always complicate the best-laid plans of its protagonists. Andrew sprawls atop the truck, then topples helplessly over the side. Miraculously, he snags a one-hand grip on a rail along the edges of the trailer roof. Dangling desperately from the top of the truck, Andrew loses his grip and plunges to the asphalt roadway. Happily, speed demon Garrett rushes in and slides his car beneath Andrew to break his fall so he doesn’t wind up on the pavement. Andrew scrambles up the hood of Garrett’s swiftly moving car and leaps back atop the truck. Suffice to say, our two protagonists dodge bullets as they force the truck to slow down enough for them to break into the back of the eighteen-wheeler and drive the Bugatti down the ramp and speed away.
The triumph that our heroes savor for their outlandish exploit, however, is short-lived. As it turns out, the man who paid the Fosters to steal the Bugatti is appalled to learn that the new owner is a top Marseille crime boss. Promptly, he double-crosses the Fosters and takes them and the car to Jacomo (Simon Abkarian), who in turn kills him and hires the Fosters to take on his greatest rival, Max (Clemens Schick), an unscrupulous, rodent-faced fiend who wants to dismantle Jacomo’s criminal empire. At one point, during their introduction to Jacomo, Andrew and Garrett face the prospect of being blasted at close range with a shotgun while they sit tied down to chairs poised at the edge of a towering platform. Negret and his scenarists love to keep everybody at the edge of their respective seats through “Overdrive.” Eventually, two shapely gals, Stephanie (Ana de Armas of “Blade Runner 2049”) and pickpocket Devin (Gaia Weiss of “The Legend of Hercules” ), provide eye-candy for our heroes as they take on both bad guys. It doesn’t take Interpol long to show up on the scene, and these guys lurk in the shadows as Andrew and Garrett concoct a plan to steal another Ferrari as well as several other exotic vehicles.
“Overdrive” never runs out of steam, and Negret and his writers keep piling on the complications until it appears like our heroes are going to lose the gumption to pull off their ambitious car-jacking. Disaster awaits them at every turn, and the villains are the breed of dastards who resolve to come out on top no matter how many people must die. Scott Eastwood radiates his father’s easy-going charisma, but he knows when to grimace and get tough. Gear heads will drool over the array of classic cars, while heist movie fans will find “Overdrive” worth buckling up for a white-knuckled spin.