Harmony Korine’s Aggro Dr1ft is best described as a perverted Grand Theft Auto-style fantasy. It’s an experimental film to its core, ignoring almost all narrative film conventions. There is little story, the visuals are all thermal images, and the film looks like a cut scene from a video game.
The film follows an assassin, self-proclaimed as the best in the business, on a quest to rid his city of criminals who he deems unworthy of living and having so much power. He is a simple man; he has a family and he kills people, that’s it. There is little to nothing more than that, there is no real cohesive story. It’s a video game-inspired experiment that gets lost in Korine’s distorted vision of what cinema should be like.
Korine is outspoken on his disdain for modern films, talking to Variety recently he stated that 30-second long TikTok videos do more for him than any feature length movie. He is only interested in TikTok, YouTube and video games. This love for said mediums is evident here as it’s akin to playing a campaign on Call of Duty with a TikTok-like soundtrack.
There is always a need for innovators, but Korine isn’t the right person to take cinema forward, well at least his idea of progression definitely isn’t the answer. Aggro Dr1ft is so focused on its stylisations that it forgets what it takes to engage an audience. It’s tedious and repetitive with the characters saying the same lines repeatedly. It’s also extremely crude, over sexualised and misogynistic. Every woman in the film is either twerking, stripping or a stay-at-home wife. It’s completely deplorable, and it gets progressively worse as the 80-minute runtime goes by.
Travis Scott makes a short cameo as a gun-toting mercenary who works with the protagonist, it’s teased he is a big deal but nothing comes of it. Why Scott would agree to act in such a film is beyond me, but perhaps the promise of Korine’s uncanny style was enough to convince the artist? Half of the film consists of criminals waving their guns like they’re in a rap video, while other antagonists air thrust as they await the protagonist’s arrival. Korine’s choices are seriously baffling, it’s like a rebellious fifteen year old wanting to make a Saints Row or GTA fan film.
Cinematographer Arnaud Potier’s thermal imagery is a neat concept but over a runtime of 80-minutes it becomes overused and lacks any aesthetic interest. The images are in a constant state of stuttering as the AI algorithm applies Snapchat-like filters to characters and their surroundings, it’s truly chaotic. At first it plays like a well-produced, creative music video but then is inexplicably extended into a feature film without any true purpose beyond being an experimental visual-oriented undertaking.
Given how distasteful and overlong Aggro Dr1ft is, it comes as no surprise that there were an exodus of walkouts at the first Venice Film Festival screening of the film. Adding to the discomfort is the film’s never-ending, piercing soundtrack that has a few good needle drops, but that’s about it. Korine clearly cares about the connection between music and picture, but ultimately it’s all style over substance. Korine’s latest, which should’ve been a five-minute experimental short, is an obscenely awful film that is overtly sexist, crude, and worst of all, meaningless.
This review is from the 2023 Venice Film Festival.