Drive All Night is a visually stunning debut film– a modern day story with a retro vibe. This one is likely to hook viewers with its mix of surreal storytelling and aesthetic appeal.
Dave (Yutaka Takeuchi) is our protagonist in this tale. He’s a reserved night shift taxi driver who stumbles upon an adventurous evening when he picks up Cara (Lexy Hammonds). Cara is clearly a woman with secrets. She draws Dave into her mysterious world as she instructs him to “just drive,” which leads to a series of stops throughout the night. Dave does as asked, and experiences something different from his usual mundane routine.
All the while, a hitman known as Lenny (Johnny Gilligan) is on the hunt for Cara. He’s led by a mysterious boss figure whose deep-voiced directions add an element of fear and suspense to the story. Cara never gives a straightforward background story, but Dave grows closer to her throughout the night through snippets from her life and their shared experience.
This is one of those films in which I thought I knew what was happening, and then a scene would throw the story off-balance, leaving me to question the assumed reality before me. Sometimes, this can leave me confused and frustrated as a viewer, but that’s typically when it doesn’t fit with the style of the film. It worked here because Drive All Night has a dreamlike quality in certain scenes. It left some factors open for interpretation. Because of this, I do think it’s a film that could benefit from a second watch. This is not only to catch what was missed the first time around but to draw further conclusions as a viewer.
As a child of the ’80s, I’m a huge fan of modern films with a bit of throwback, and I found that here. The score is heavy on the synth-pop sound of that era, and there’s a strong arcade/gaming presence—both literally on the set and in some of the on-screen conversation. The atmosphere in Drive All Night is both soothing and stimulating, as it takes place overnight, so there’s darkness mingled with pops of neon light. There’s a sense of building tension as the hitman is on the hunt, but it’s also balanced with a sense of calm found in the scenes featuring Dave and Cara.
The acting was solid, from the leading to supporting roles, and Yutaka Takeuchi especially did a great job as Dave. The emotion in his facial expression speaks volumes at times, and I was able to empathize with his character despite not having much backstory. There are a few action-oriented scenes, but ultimately this is more of a character study, focusing on Dave and his discovery of some things he’s been missing in life.
Peter Hsieh shows much potential as a filmmaker in this endeavor. Drive All Night has the heart of an independent film with the look and feel of a big-budget release. It’s a strong debut indicative of more creative ventures to follow.