The new action/horror movie Drifter tells the story of two brothers on a cross country journey fueled by revenge. The film is set in a near-apocalypse similar to the original Mad Max. That’s not where the resemblance ends, as the filmmakers pay heavy homage to the George Miller classic and others like it all throughout this desert-set bloodbath. Clearly, one of their favorite aspects of those types of films is how relentlessly filthy they are. At times Drifter goes a bit too far with its visual references, though, letting style upstage substance in scenes where that doesn’t really fit. “Too much of a good thing” and so on.
The movie opens with a series of scenes meant to introduce us to the two brothers and the wasteland of a world they inhabit. They drive their beaten-down dystopia sedan through the desert, face off with gangs of freaks and robbers, and blow them away with a whole host of guns. First-time director Chris von Hoffmann makes a lot of bold choices throughout the movie. He captures these showdowns in hyper-stylized quick cuts and swoopy, dutch-angle camerawork reminiscent of The Evil Dead or the campy Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s. While this cartoonish, over-the-top style is a personal favorite genre of mine, in this first half of Drifter it feels out of place, and occasionally a bit distracting. Although set in a violent shoot-‘em-up wasteland, the introductory scenes of the film are written with a sort of slow-burning, drawn out pace that clashes with the high energy camera work and editing.
The back half of the movie really picks up the pace, and lives up to the promise of the style flashed throughout its slow moving intro. The brothers find themselves stuck in a mysterious and hostile small town, overrun by cannibalistic psychopaths. In a sentence I can’t believe I’m writing, the film really gets going once they introduce the cannibals. The sadistic mayor of the town (played as a cross between The Joker and The Walking Dead’s Negan) captures the brothers in a brutal show of force, and our heroes are forced to fight their way out of this society of lunatics.
Ultimately, I did enjoy a lot of Drifter. Although it is a bit much, the visual tone is really impressive, especially for a film that’s this low-budget. Fans of this type of grungy, gritty B-Movie genre should probably give it a watch. It’s gross, and scuzzy, and over-the-top, and in-your-face, and a lot of the time that really works for its benefit. Drifter is proud genre-movie sleaze.
Rating: 3 out of 5