Generally, when you think of Stephen King’s made-for-TV movies, you think of It or The Stand, two of his better-known TV movie adaptations. Yeah, he’s had many other adaptations since then, the last being the flawed Bag Of Bones. King’s latest adaptation, the crime thriller Big Driver, hit Lifetime (yes, that Lifetime) back in October, and now Lionsgate brings us the DVD. While not being a traditional King horror romp, director Mikael Salomon does his best to give us a gritty tale of rape and revenge.
Tess Thorne (Bello) is a famous writer who is out on the road after a book signing. Despite her best efforts and GPS, she ends up lost. Things go bad when she ends up running over some all too conveniently-placed lumber, leaving her stranded on the side of the road. Fortunately for Tess, a truck driver (Will Harris) happens by a few minutes later and offers his help. Tess accepts his help, but it was all a setup by the driver, who sheds his friendly guise and proceeds to beat and rape Tess, leaving her for dead. Tess awakens later and manages to walk to the next town. Instead of calling for the police, Tess decides to exact revenge in her own way.
Now before anything, yes, this film showed up on Lifetime. Let’s get that out of the way. Next, while the basic premise sounds all-too familiar (I Spit On Your Grave immediately comes to mind), the film does offer more in the form of Richard Christian Matheson’s script. Tess is presented as a normal person with a darker, more violent personality underneath the surface. And it just so happens that after her assault, elements of that personality come to the surface in her “eye for an eye” vengeance. As such, the viewer is offered a glimpse into Tess’s head, including conversations with a character from her book in Aunt Doreen (played humorously by Olympia Dukakis) and her GPS named “Tom”. It might sound kind of hokey, but really, is it that much different from having a character reliving traumatic experiences in other films/television shows? It adds to the flavour of a character out for payback.
The acting front begins and ends with Maria Bello. Bello is amazing as Tess, and fully brings Matheson’s script to life, conveying every bit of underlying sadness and anger in the character, the latter of which really comes out in the second half of the film. Dukakis is another treat of the film, doling out King’s trademark black humour as Tess’s muse and voice of reason…even if that reason involves making sure Tess gets rid of the evidence. Will Harris’s imposing portrayal of the film’s antagonist, Lester, is appropriately intimidating and sleazy (though you wouldn’t want to say it to his face), and really makes you want to see his comeuppance.
Even with the excellent script and equally-excellent acting, there are a few issues that creep up. Aside from the obvious rape revenge motif that really doesn’t differentiate from a lot of other films of this nature, the elements mentioned above involving Tess’s character (interactions with characters from her book and the GPS) that do border on the silly. There’s also the actual act of rape, which despite being restricted by the original format and not glorified, is still not something you’d enjoy watching. And like many revenge rape films, you probably won’t be in a hurry to see it again afterwards. Finally, despite receiving third billing, Joan Jett’s role is really nothing much more than a cameo as a bar owner, and feels more like one of those attempts at attention-grabbing in order for people to take notice. But really, why do that when you already have great talent in the film?
While Big Driver doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to films of this nature, the strength of the script and the quality of the acting really make the film stand out. Bello is amazing in her role, and performances by Harris and Dukakis really sell this one. The film isn’t for everyone (given the obvious content), but for those who are able to stomach this sort of topic will be rewarded with another excellent adaptation of Stephen King’s work.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Big Driver looks great. Colour reproduction is excellent, the overall image is crisp and clear with no imperfections like compression artifacts. There are some instances where details do look a bit flat, but this is easily one of the better-looking DVDs I’ve seen in a while.
As for the audio, the Dolby Digital English 5.1 stereo track is equally-comparable in quality to the video. Use of directional sound is great, with some excellent instances of the sound moving from one channel to the next. Bass output adds a nice punch to select scenes, and doesn’t overpower. Dialogue is clear and free of any distortion.
You know those companies that put other films’ trailers on the DVD instead of having actual extras that pertain to the film you’re watching? Lionsgate did it here, and it’s beyond annoying. The “extra” that pertains to the film is the ultraviolet copy.
Also included is a slipcase that replicates the art for the case itself.