This year’s Venice is all about hired killers and professional assassins: from David Fincher, we got a cold and somewhat crisp vision of this profession in The Killer, with Michael Fassbender’s interpretation of the job; in contrast, Richard Linklater proposed less in-depth storytelling in his too-funny-to-be-real Hit Man – all about lively timing, hilarious convention and unusual coincidences. And then we have Harmony Korine with his latest, Aggro Dr1ft, an experience that fits this aforementioned Venetian subgenre only by having a similar premise. The director uses the film’s plot (it’s a story of a philosophical assassin trying to find the time for his family between incoming contracts) as a pretext for experimenting with form and imagery. Deliberately tasteless and calculatedly awful, it’s compelling… until it is not.
There is really nothing else like this title. It is done purely in infrared photography (this intentional style gives it some demonic atmosphere), with modulated vocals and an improper amount of coarse violence. If that wasn’t enough, there are also Korine’s drifting shots and some abstract additions, like little (but dreadful) demons (seen only by our mentally ill antihero) or birds, contorted in both image and sound, reminding us of some kind of pterodactyl. This film is too hostile to be true and too brutal and rapacious to even appear at a such conservative festival as Biennale. But it’s there, and you either love it or hate it.
It’s been said that “there are films and there are films“. Korine, with his evocative project, belongs to the second category and this is probably why most of the Venice audience left during the screenings. Aggro Dr1ft becomes repetitive after the first 20 minutes. Furthermore, apart from the fact that the work is unsettling in its own uncanny way, Korine’s experiment is variously flawed. Firstly, there is too much repetition and plot filler, which makes it vaguer and vaguer; in depicting the same characters and sequences, Korine loses his audience. Secondly, the director’s use of violence is inordinate and, unfortunately, completely unwatchable.
Following Aggro Dr1ft’s action is like watching a visualisation of an insane person’s mind, and the result feels superfluous and excruciating at the same time. Korine had an intriguing idea, but has executed it blatantly and without any further development. To paraphrase the director, it’s a statement on its own, but who is going to watch it? The odds of a positive answer to this question are rather small.
Aggro Dr1ft does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.