Film reviews and more since 2009

Aggro Dr1ft (2024) review

Dir. Harmony Korine

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★½

To understand Harmony Korine’s Aggro Dr1ft — at least in a broad sense — is to recall what he said about Michael Mann’s Miami Vice 12 years ago while on the festival circuit for Spring Breakers. Citing Mann’s 2006 adaptation of the once-popular TV series, Korine remarked how he “could feel the place” in which that film was set (like this one, Miami). He added, “When I watch that film, I don’t even pay attention to what they’re saying or the storyline. I love the colors, I love the texture.”

Knowing that — one of many fragmented details about the enigmatic-yet-endlessly-fascinating filmmaker that remain in my mind — it makes his latest work, a guerilla assault on the senses, plot structure, and everything resembling a “movie” in the conventional sense, more palatable and easy to appreciate. Aggro Dr1ft is an experimental piece of work, and like most experiments of this nature, it tests your patience while simultaneously remaining apathetic as to whether or not you’re on its wavelength. However, like his best and boldest works, Korine demands you see this world through his eyes. Such firmness in asserting his style is why he remains one of the best today, even if his projects don’t always match that status.

Aggro Dr1ft was shot entirely with infrared cameras before being highly manipulated in post-production. Apparently, A.I. was utilized as a tool to create different effects, specifically on characters (such as tattoos), and other ghostly figures that appear throughout. All this tinkering has resulted in a film that’s both beautiful and ugly; a hybrid of an unfinished PlayStation 1 video-game and a Nyquil-induced nightmare. The Miami skies are red, but sometimes blue and yellow. The humans, if you want to call them that, look as if the color-wheel threw up, with some parts of them almost consistently red. Consequently, their humanity is lost in an array of ever-changing colors, to the point they’re defined by their movements. Even sky and land bleed into one another to create an ungainly neon pastiche.

The plot? Should I even bother? Korine didn’t. Let’s say, the essence of Aggro Dr1ft revolves around Bo (Jordi Mollà), a disillusioned assassin who is struggling balancing career-killing with quality family-time. He loves and appreciates domesticity, with a buxom wife who sensually dances for him when he gets home — Korine couldn’t help himself in showing all the ways women of various sizes, including strippers, can shimmy and shake their assets for an infrared lens — and two children eagerly waiting for their father.

In public, however, Bo is cold-blooded and merciless. He’s grooming his protégé Zion (rapper Travis Scott, with whom Korine collaborated on Scott’s film Circus Maximus) whilst navigating a world run by demonic figures who rule to kill and kill to rule.

As visceral and as memorable as some of Aggro Dr1ft‘s images are, threatening to undercut them is Korine’s dialog. It’s mostly needless, and for the first half, almost inexplicably atrocious. When executing a drug mogul in a backyard pool, Bo slits his throat as he says, “You piece of shit. Fuck you. Fuck you, fucker. This is what you get, pig. You dirty bastard piece of shit.” In writing this dialog, Korine has seemingly adopted the attitude of a middle schooler whose parents aren’t around. Most of the film is conducted via voiceover narration by Mollà; it very well might be the hushed vocal tone he adopts, but there’s even a lack of confidence on his behalf when it comes to reciting some of these lines.

To my surprise, Aggro Dr1ft is a quieter movie than I was expecting. AraabMuzik’s score is defined by a plethora of lo-fi hip-hop sounds and easy-on-the-ears instrumentals that evoke a vibe of drifty relaxation. Given the premise and the videography, I was expecting Korine to commit to pummeling our senses into oblivion; remarkably, this feels light, almost meditative, despite its violent premise and horrific figures.

The thermal imagery cinematographer Arnaud Potier manages to conjure finds ways of drawing you back in, heinous voiceover aside. Like the inexplicable piece of bacon taped to a bathtub wall while a kid bathes in filthy water below in Gummo, there are scenes liable to stay in your mind. I appreciated some of them for their audacity, such as a party-scene where strippers shoot sparklers out of their crotch, or when a laconic Travis Scott tries to convince his mentor that life is all about “doing it.” Late in the third act, Bo delivers a monologue about fatherhood. It’s difficult not to hear Korine’s voice emerge from his words, as the filmmaker, now 50, tries to be the boundary-pushing, convention-defining visionary he’s always been while also raising a child of his own.

Last year, Korine declared that he wasn’t trying to make a movie with Aggro Dr1ft, which is evident in his all-out rejection for such cinematic touchstones as narrative, character development, and logic. To judge this as a film is the wrong approach. To judge it as an experiment might at least assure you emerge satisfied, even moved, by some of its images or its overall concept. I predict even the toughest critics will find it difficult to completely reject what Korine strives for with Aggro Dr1ft, something I’m not sure even he can entirely describe, only feel.

NOTE: As of this writing, Aggro Dr1ft is exclusively available to purchase on Harmony Korine’s EDGLRD website for $15.99.

Starring: Jordi Mollà and Travis Scott. Directed by: Harmony Korine.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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