Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Death Driver (1977)

Earl Owensby, an enterprising actor/producer who made a string of successful pictures for the drive-in circuit during the ’70s and ’80s, rarely aimed for high art. Yet even by his low standards, Death Driver is a shabby piece of work. Bogusly billed as “The True Story of Rex Randolph,” it’s actually a fictional story set in the world of thrill shows, with Owensby playing a dude who became famous by attempting to drive a car through a flaming house while crowds watched. The general shape of the piece is that of a redemption saga, with Randolph (Owensby) searching for new forms of income and validation in the years following his brush with death. Viewers are asked to believe it’s a tragedy that Randolph can’t find anything more satisfying to do than attempting the same incredibly dangerous stunt again, even though he’s well past his prime and therefore unlikely to survive. Had Owensby and his collaborators demonstrated any measurable skill at characterization and drama, this storyline could have been poignant. Unfortunately, Randolph comes across as a backwoods scumbag. He steals cars and demolishes them in stunt shows. He cons a woman into sex by pretending he’s acquainted with a Hollywood talent agent. Et cetera. Instead of telling the sad story of a man who is only good at one thing, Owensby and his team tell the pointless story of an adrenaline junkie who feels entitled to whatever gratification he desires, no matter who gets hurt along the way. Death Driver is so vapid and wrongheaded that the only enjoyable aspect of the movie is sarcastic commentary spewed by the yahoo speaking over the PA system during race scenes. When a nameless guy who never appears onscreen delivers a film’s most dynamic element, that’s a sure sign something major is lacking.

Death Driver: LAME

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