On a desolate night three armed men pull up in front of a pawnbrokers run by Frank McCarthy (Sam Neil). Two men exit as the getaway Driver (Barry Pepper) remains. It is uncertain what exactly happens inside but it was a most violent robbery to be sure. The three men make a run for it fleeing into the night.
A week later ‘Driver’ is sitting in his pride and joy, his 1970 Chauvel Super Sport muscle car. Driver is an introverted man with a lot of guilt in his past. He receives contact from his boss, Veronica (Rachel Griffiths) with a simple request. He must pick up one of the robbers and deliver him to her pronto. No explanation is initially offered or information on what the delivery will result in, but Driver knows it won’t end well for his passenger. Following his orders, he collects ‘Passenger’ (Jamie Costa), a naïve and young man out of place in this world he’s chosen for himself.
So begins an exceptionally long drive across town as Driver and Passenger‘s oil and water personalities clash. Driver‘s conscience begins to eat away at him and he sees something of himself in this idealistic young man. While Passenger is confronted by the harsh reality which a life of crime leads to, the two men have a difficult night ahead of them and their resolve will be tested. Perhaps they may not even live long enough to reach their final destination.
Bring Him to Me is the latest film from director Luke Sparke. Often writing his own features, this time he is taking the helm of a debut screenplay from Tom Evans. Sparke also moves away from his regular genres of sci-fi and horror, shifting gears into a road movie which shows inspirations from Michael Mann’s ‘Collateral’ set in a Tarantino-esque criminal underworld.
The focus for majority of Bring Him to Me is the slowly forming bond which grows between our unnamed protagonists. We get the feeling that Driver sees Passenger much like a father sees a son. At first, he couldn’t care less about the younger man’s fate and is willing to simply let things be. But as the long night drags on, it becomes clear that he can’t simply consider himself an impartial observer. He’s the only thing between this man and a likely violent end.
On the other hand, Passenger‘s naivety may strain credulity at times. Costa plays the role of this fresh-faced young father well enough. But he’s just a little too pure for this dark world he’s supposed to inhabit. That is the point of course, but it’s often laid on way too thick.
The 1970 Chauvel Super Sport muscle car is not just the setting of much of the film but is also a character of its own, a symbol of both the potential liberation or annihilation of Passenger. It all depends which direction Driver travels and the window of possibilities close with every mile which ticks over.
Barry Pepper is a thoroughly underrated actor. He’s someone who always brings a level of quiet intensity to his roles. With Bring Him to Me, Pepper is definitely the standout performance amongst many talents. For one, he’s just that good of an actor. But also, the film’s local production awkwardly clashing with its American setting.
Sparke and his team deserve credit for making a well put together Australian film in a relatively short time. But the Queensland filming locations do not pass for the middle American setting which the film is going for. Neither do the local cast’s American accents come off as completely natural. The filmmakers may have had their hands tied, perhaps financing required a U.S setting. But I can’t help but think about how more genuine the film would feel against an Aussie backdrop (even with an American lead in Pepper), rather than an entire cast and production pretending to be something they aren’t.
There is plenty for fans of gangster movies to love about Bring Him to Me. It’s violent, it’s gritty and it features some great car chases to boot. Audiences may find its finale quite lacking however, and the film is not without its rough patches. But Bring Him To Me provides a solid performance from Barry Pepper who keeps the film grounded, while Luke Sparke’s knack for filming action scene shines through.