big driver | mikael salomon | richard christian matheson | maria bello | ann dowd | will harris | rape | revenge | based on | short story | stephen king | crime | mystery | thriller | united states | lifetime | joan jett | olympia dukakis | jennifer kydd | andre myette
Film: Big Driver
Director: Mikael Salomon
Writer: Richard Christian Matheson
Starring: Maria Bello, Ann Dowd and Will Harris
This was a movie that I knew of but didn’t know a lot about either. I feel like I would have read the short story from Stephen King, but at the time of watching this I was drawing a blank. I am watching this as I wanted a King based story for an October movie challenge. This isn’t considered horror on the Internet Movie Database or Letterboxd, but with the subject matter of rape/revenge, I think it is close enough. The synopsis is a famous mystery writer sets out for revenge after a brutal attack.
For this movie, we start seeing Tess Throne (Maria Bello) in a drainage pipe. She wakes up in the water. The movie then shows us the events that lead us to her being there. Tess is a famous mystery writer as the synopsis states and her series that made her famous is about a knitting group that solves crimes. She has a speaking engagement at a library in a town over. It is there she meets with the woman who set it up, Ramona Norvell (Ann Dowd).
The talk seems to go well and Tess was received well. As she is preparing to head home, Ramona recommends a short cut through the woods. She states it will cut the time down and it is more scenic. Tess takes the route she recommends. Someone left some boards on the road with nails in them. One gets stuck in her tire and she has to pull over to a closed up gas station. The logical belief is that it just fell off the back of the truck and no one noticed.
Tess tries to figure out what to do when a man in a pick-up pulls up. She comments on how big he is and his nickname is the name of the movie, Big Driver (Will Harris). He agrees to help her out and change her tire. Tess becomes nervous when she looks in the bed of his truck and finds a similar board with nails to the one she drove over. Before she knows it though, Big Driver attacks her in the building. She is left for dead in the drainage pipe.
She gets out and tries to find her way home. She is able to, but she doesn’t want to talk about what happened. It goes through her mind what people will say, her reputation and even her career could be in jeopardy. Or that is what she believes. She leaves herself a voicemail to make sure she remembers all the details that she can. This gives her a new purpose, she wants to find and punish the man that changed her life. She doesn’t have a lot to go on to start, but much like the women she writes about in her stories, she is perceptive.
That should be enough for my recap and where I want to start is I was shocked how graphic this movie was. Coming in, I saw it was made for Lifetime. I know that King was the brain behind it and we even have Richard Christian Matheson penning the teleplay. Jaime isn’t a fan of the rape/revenge sub-genre so when that scene came up here, she checked out and I finished this one alone. This movie shows more than I was expecting as I didn’t think they would go there. I’ve definitely seen much worse for sure. This is a disclaimer that I felt needed to be established.
Since I don’t remember the story, I’m interested to go back now and re-read it. What I liked here is King taking an element we get with his works of like Dreamcatcher, Dr. Sleep or like Gerald’s Game and incorporating into this. Tess is alone for good portions of this movie. She speaks with Doreen (Olympia Dukakis) who she envisions as the lead from her novels. She also talks to the GPS she has in her car that she calls Tom. Both of these voices are her of course, but giving a different voice to them as she reasons things. I’ll be honest, I talk to myself regularly. Seeing that this character does it worked for me and it prevents voice-over narration or silence which I liked.
I suppose I should take this then to our villain, Big Driver. He is an imposing man and Harris brings that to the role. What I like about his performance is that at first, he’s a nice guy. He lulls her defense down. It doesn’t last long before he attacks her. At first though, he seems like just some country bumpkin taking advantage of a situation. We see when she is in the drainpipe, she isn’t his first and won’t be his last. As Tess puts things together, much like the characters from her novels, she starts to wonder how deep this plot goes. The story is lacking a bit, but I think that is partially due to the time slot they have to work with.
From here I’ll go then to the acting. I’ve already said my piece on Harris as I thought he was good as the villain. I commend Bello for taking on this role. It couldn’t be an easy thing to do, but she is a solid actress and it worked. Seeing her talk to herself felt natural and I loved the different representations she used in her head. Dowd was solid in her minor supporting role. I did like seeing Joan Jett as this bartender of Betsy Neal. Aside from that, Dukakis, Andre Myette and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
The last things to go over would be the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. For the former, we don’t get a lot of them, but we don’t need it. What was amazing was the realistic after effects of the attack on Tess’ face. It looked and felt real. Everything here felt like it was practical. There was good stuff with the cinematography to hide things as well. I like that they didn’t sexualize the rape scene as that makes it feel dirtier without exploiting. Aside from that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed. The different voices used were something I’ve already brought up and it worked for me.
So then in conclusion here, this is a solid Lifetime movie, something that I didn’t know I’d bring up here. It isn’t listed as horror, but I think the subject matter is dark enough to consider it that, especially with how realistic something like this is. The acting carries this movie. Seeing what Bello deals with is heartbreaking, but when she gets her revenge we’re there with her. The rest of the cast is solid. The story isn’t too deep, but it also doesn’t necessarily need to be either. I liked the effects, how this was shot and the soundtrack/design worked for what was needed. I’d say this is an above average movie to me.
My Rating: 7 out of 10