Bullet Points: Bus Driver
Looking through Director Brian Herzlinger’s list of projects on IMDb is similar to checking the listings for future movies on the Hallmark Channel. It’s mostly terrible sounding romantic comedies with names that involve some sort of holiday; Meet My Valentine, Love Always, Santa, and Christmas Angel. It’s essentially a list of movies that I will never watch. But hidden in between The Perfect Daughter and Hush Little Baby is a little movie called Bus Driver. The title could very end up being no different than his other flicks but the poster and tagline had me drawn in enough to give it a try.
Synopsis: A high school bus on its way to a retreat blows a tire and stops at the nearest ranch for help. The driver, five troubled students, and their ridiculous gym- teacher chaperone find, instead, criminals who will stop at nothing to make sure their drug operations aren’t discovered. The students and teacher are easy prey for these animals, but standing in the way of certain death is a force more determined and more skilled than any of them ever expected: The Bus Driver.
- A Cast of Characters: We’re immediately introduced to the cast of students and teachers that will more than likely be getting shot in the face at some point and Bus Driver has all of the boxes checked. In fact, even the gym teacher/chaperone Mr. Gooch Girabaldi (which may be the greatest and most fitting name ever) comments on how the five students waiting to be picked up by Gooch and the bus driver resemble the kids from The Breakfast Club. It’s a really funny scene and actually, it’s one of many funny scenes that took me by surprise at just how intelligent the writing was for such a “by the books” kind of film.
- The Breakfast Club: There is a reason that most horror movies involving young people always have the same types in them: audiences already know what it means when a girl is dressed slutty or nerdy or a guy wears a letterman jacket and the film can get away without have to flesh out the characters. Well, Bus Driver does use the same stereotypes of other action or horror movies but it attempts to shake things up a bit by giving the characters a little more meat on their bones throughout the film. They’re all misfit kids but they aren’t all worthless and guaranteed to be killed. It’s a welcome change.
- Break Worse: The group quickly realizes that they found a drug house and now the meth cookers are not going to let them leave alive. The driver is starting to piece things together as a couple of the horny teens are upstairs banging it out and it isn’t long before a crew of gun-wielding bad guys storm into the house to escort the group outside. There is a moment where it seems like Dylan (Holly Ellisa), the leader of the bad guys, is going to let them go but a series of events and a stiff front kick from the bus driver to Dylan’s chest pretty much throw that hope out of the window.
- Hired Guns: The main muscle for Dylan’s meth crew is Jace, played by the massive Michael Bailey Smith. Big Mike has a face for doing bad things and he’s more than likely a face that you’ve seen at some point over his 25+ year career. He’s been in everything from Desperate Housewives to Nightmare on Elm Street 5. He also says a lot without having to say a thing. His massive build and his face made of stone make him an excellent bad guy to put up against the bus driver. You will be a bit taken aback by just how hard it is to kill Jace, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
- The Bus Driver: I’m not exactly sure who Steve Daron is or what his background is but his biggest job in Bus Driver is not to look like a wimpy little twit pretending to be tough and I would say that Daron did a serviceable job. I described this movie to a friend as being the type of film that would have felt weird with a massive guy like Dolph Lundgren in it, but one that needs a certain level of physicality to make it work. Steve Daron fit the part. He apparently has some combat experience in his background with boxing and different martial arts, and while he’s not really throwing magnificent Van Damme-like kicks at people, he’s still able to perform the movements without looking silly. Daron also works because he doesn’t have those classic Hollywood good looks (like me). It isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that a guy like him could be driving a bus. The same couldn’t be said for a great majority of action stars.
Get back in your seats and read these bonus Bullet Points or so help me I will turn this bus around….
- Why do movies always have elderly actors playing Generals. I know that it takes many years for career officers to make that rank but there is little chance that there are Generals running around in their 70’s.
- Favorite Quote: “I woke up in a Steven Seagal movie!”
- A big ‘tip of the cap and wave of the finger’ to director Brian Herzlinger for both making me smile by showing a great pair of boobs and also for making me cringe a bit when I realize that she’s supposed to be playing a high school student.
The Verdict: Bus Driver surprised the shit out of me by being a very fun and violent action movie and by also making me audibly laugh out loud a few times. Steve Daron was more late 90’s era Seagal than early Seagal but he was more than serviceable. I doubt that it was a star-making performance like Bloodsport (for Van Damme) or The Perfect Weapon (for Jeff Speakman) was, but it was still much better than I expected. The action scenes had some cool edits that I can only describe as being “kinda like Memento” in the way that they went back in time. Some of the kills were very cool, Daron uses a corded phone as a weapon (that’s a first for me), and Steven Chase as Mr. Gooch was downright hilarious. All in all, some good boobs, some fun kills, and a few good performances make this a movie worth seeking out.