New this week on a four feature DVD from Lifetime/Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
BIG DRIVER (2014)
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Written by Stephen King (short story), Richard Christian Matheson (teleplay)
Starring Maria Bello, Ann Dowd, Will Harris, Joan Jett, Olympia Dukakis, Jennifer Kydd, Andre Myette, Juanita Peters, Mary-Colin Chisholm
I wasn’t aware of Stephen King’s short story called “Big Driver”, which apparently is from his anthology entitled FULL DARK, NO STARS. Having not read the source material, I cannot comment on how faithful or how much of a departure this version of the story is.
All I can comment about is the film I saw and while I wasn’t jazzed when I saw the Lifetime Network logo appear at the beginning of this BIG DRIVER, I was pleasantly surprised how much teeth the film actually had.
Maria Bello plays Tess Thorne, a writer of a mystery series involving a group of elderly ladies who solve crimes. Her work has garnered much popularity among the old bitty sect and the film opens on Thorne arriving at a book signing at a ladies’ club, giving motivational speeches about writing and women’s lib. Taking a shortcut home given to her by one of the ladies holding the event, Tess gets a flat when she drives over a two by four with nails in it seemingly purposefully laid in the middle of the road. Soon a seemingly friendly truck stops to help Tess, but this kind citizen turns out to be anything but, attacking, raping, and leaving her for dead in a sewer filled with dead bodies who seem to have suffered the same fate. Crawling free, Tess’ first instinct is to call the cops, but guilt, fear, and paranoia set in and Tess soon decides to take the law into her own hands and enact revenge herself.
This I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE by way of MISERY story is a compelling one. There’s star power in the film, not only from Bello, but also from Olympia Dukakis (who plays Tess’ imaginary Jiminy Cricket and star of her book series giving her advice along the way though her path of redemption), Will Harris (who plays the man mountain known as Big Driver), and COMPLIANCE’s Ann Dowd as the head of the board of ladies who sends her on the fateful short cut. The film also offers up a cameo of sorts for rocker Joan Jett as a bartender who has seen her share of abuse. That’s quite the colorful cast and all of the players involved do a great job of it, especially Bello, who has an annoying habit of talking to herself (but she talks like a Stephen King character, so you can’t blame her for that).
While the film falls into conventional tropes in the latter portion, the initial rape and Bello’s arduous crawl back to civilization is realized surprisingly well. The scenes directly after the rape where Bello is disoriented and running down the middle of the road and given sideways glances as she moves through a convenience store beaten and bloody are especially effectively done. And while the final act is filled with your typical revenge flick scenarios, the potency of the way the crime itself and the immediately aftermath was filmed made it all feel satisfying as Bello’s Tess comes back to her perpetrators guns-a-blazin’!
Those who don’t have the stomach for rape films are not going to want to check this out. It’s surprisingly graphic in both the depiction of rape and the way Bello looks afterwards. And while she turns a bit into Charles Bronson at the end, Bello carries the film capably. So while BIG DRIVER isn’t anything revolutionary in rape/revenge filmmaking, it’s surprisingly effective in terms of edge and star power.