The 2018 Japanese film Over Drive (オーバードライブ ) has plenty of racing thrills and a pair of strong, charismatic lead actors. But that unforunately isn’t enough to get the film into full throttle.
The film tells the story of engineer & mechanic Hiyama Atsuhiro (Masahiro Higashide) and his brother, rising star rally car driver Naozumi (Mackenyu Arata). Their present-day relationship is tense, even as they work together at SPICA Racing. But flashbacks reveal they were as close as can be when they were younger and that changed after one tragic event.
Over Drive wastes this potentially engaging premise with an underdeveloped story that isn’t able to get you to invest in the brothers’ relationship. And that is despite performances by Masahiro Higashide and Mackenyu Arata that are as good as can be with the thin material.
Co-producer Toyota gets its money’s worth with the legitimately thrilling and slick racing scenes. As the film is set with a backdrop of rally racing, the unique terrain the fast cars speed and fly across provide a great pump of adrenaline numerous times throughout the movie.
Conceivably, those sharp and kinetic scenes should’ve served a stark, but equally engaging contrast to perhaps slower and quieter scenes telling the brothers’ emotional past and relationship. That contrast could’ve been used as a great storytelling and visual device. But instead the film turns to simple, cliche-ridden scenes to get the point across.
The film repeatedly returns to a scene of the brothers racing down a mountain trail on bikes. It’s a beautiful scene and very nostalgic, effectively illustrating what was the brothers’ relationship. But the film doesn’t sustain that feeling nor does it effectively use that as a jumping off point for deeper dives.
The idea of the brothers’ relationship having been strained by a tragic event is certainly a familiar scenario. But it definitely had potential to still be emotionally affecting, especially with great actors charged with bringing those characters to life.
Speaking of, the rest of the cast gets completely shortchanged. Aoi Morikawa as manager Hikaru Endo is nothing but a glorified extra. And Takumi Kitamura as rival racer Akira and Keita Machida as aspiring engineer Junpei get maybe one scene each to explain who and what their characters are.
Over Drive actually would make for a great Japanese television drama. A longer form could allow them to explore the story in a much deeper way. And its premise and cast certainly deserved that much.
So despite the exciting racing scenes, Over Drive wastes the great potential of its cast and premise. It’s fine for a quick hour and a half, or so movie night. But it’s also sad to see its full potential not realized.