Habitual provocateur Harmony Korine has always challenged what cinema, and its traditional parameters, actually are. Gummo, Trash Humpers, The Beach Bum and, to a lesser degree, Spring Breakers, all pushed the envelope… and audience patience.
Now the gaming-obsessed auteur has come up with a ‘post-cinema’ project; a non-film he terms a ‘blinx’ (an experiential snapshot that could be seconds or hours long). Aggro Dr1ft is a 81-minute audio-visual assault that toys with the tropes of first-person shooters, music videos, TikTok, and rave culture, filmed entirely in the tie-dye primary colours of thermal imaging.
There’s a story of sorts. Bo (Jordi Mollà) is a world-class Miami assassin who was “born to kill” and frets about his wife and children while fulfilling contracts. One of his marks represents the demons both in himself and this violent world, setting Bo on a collision course with a “monster” via speedboat posturing, strip-club visits, gun fetishisation, and graphic violence (just because it’s rendered in paintbox hues doesn’t detract from a grisly beheading).
During one extended sequence, rapper Travis Scott turns up to discuss the Bible and Macbeth. Some robed, sword-wielding kids appear like macabre Jawas, a lap dancer shoots fireworks out of her vagina, and a massive devil is conjured from the sky. Women are objectified or brutalised (and mostly called “bitch” while ass-slapped). Our narrator’s stream of consciousness veers into the mantra-like ramblings of a kid on a trip reaching for profundity (“sidewalks of blood… stars made of fudge”) and the sound mix is turned up to ear-bleeding levels that reduce dialogue to a distant hum.
It’s avant-garde, it’s non-conformist, and in some moments it’s neon-beautiful to look at, with skies that are rendered hot pink, warm mouths an acid yellow, and silhouetted palm trees a spiky blue. AI paints fluttering tattoos, internal mechanics, and circuitry over bodies as well as horns on heads - which is, y’know, kinda cool.
But despite Korine’s knowing use of gaming iconography, none of Aggro Dr1ft’s less edifying aspects carry a subversive undertow. The hard-on for weapons, porn versions of all women (even Bo’s “beautiful wife” moans about his sexiness while performing the splits), and the exaltation of masculinity (Bo tells Scott to take care of his son, his daughter and wife an afterthought) make Aggro Dr1ft a misogynist mess. For something that’s supposed to be next-gen, it feels pretty antiquated.
The intention is to provoke, and how audiences connect to this Rorschach test of a movie will depend on the context in which they see. At the Venice Film Festival it prompted numerous walk-outs, but perhaps a cinema is not the place to experience Aggro Dr1ft. Meddle with sobriety and project it on a nightclub wall and maybe it works. As a film, not so much.
Aggro Dr1ft's release date is TBC.