When professional truck racer Roger (Thiago Martins) loses his father in an accident, he has to turn to a life of crime to pay off all of his father’s debts while still keeping his team employed in the Brazilian Netflix Original movie Overhaul (Carga Máxima), directed by Tomas Portella and written by Leandro Soares. The movie starts rather unintelligibly, but as things get worse and more dangerous for Roger, a few initially wayward elements eventually click into mediocrity.
The first half hour of Overhaul is basically one long montage where everything potentially interesting about racing or robbery gets chopped up into such small pieces that it loses all luster. It tries to use classic quick-clipped heist editing to create excitement in both Roger’s racing and robbing lives, but instead, it completely cuts out all characterization. At least, from the protagonist. The bad guys are all your run-of-the-mill caricatures, so they’re easy to grasp instantly.
But Roger is, seemingly inadvertently, totally unlikable for the first half of the movie, and not in a love-to-hate-him kind of way. Rather, he’s just an empty vessel for the plot to proceed through at first. His only characteristic is grumpy and his only motivation is an unconvincing self-preservation drive.
Fortunately, once the movie hits its halfway point and the plot takes a dramatic shift into unpredictable but more welcome territory, Roger does perk up. But his best friend Danilo (Raphael Logam) has basically nothing going for him from start to finish, and his rival/endgame Rainha (Sheron Menezzes) spends almost the whole movie until a final redeeming scene as a strawman and an inexplicably scantily clad object for eventual contrived romantic affection. This isn’t problematic in and of itself. It’s just a disservice to the obvious potential of her character, especially when revealed later on.
Action movie characters don’t necessarily need to be deep to work, but it does exacerbate the lack of coherent action in the first half. There’s racing and truck robbery, but the editing splices them up so much that neither feels particularly satisfying especially the robberies. The whole conceit of the movie is something you rarely think about: they hijack shipping trucks by detaching the cargo from the truck and reattaching it to new trucks. Each time they rob a truck, there is an increasingly difficult aspect like jamming trackers and avoiding the wheel-locking mechanism. But if you can muddle through the first part of the movie to reach its climax, you’ll be rewarded with more than one cool setpiece action moment in the back half.
You’re also rewarded with an entirely new plot development out of left field that takes some time to adjust to since it is so truly out of the blue. But once it settles in, it mostly works. The new relationship at play helps make Roger a far more interesting character and lets the new player actually shine pretty hard on her own several times over. She’s even the catalyst for Rainha getting somewhat redeemed as a character more valuable than just her sex appeal, which is a nice bonus.
For fans of action movies, Overhaul might be worth enduring the first half to get a decent and unique second act of action. For fans of racing movies, it has its moments, but they get repetitive after a while and sink into predictability by the end. There’s more technical depth to the racing than the average affair though, and the way they’re resolved is not at all a cop-out, to the movie’s credit. But still, its troubled first half looms large over what successes it does achieve afterward, ultimately rendering Overhaul watchable but not necessarily enjoyable through and through.
Overhaul is streaming now on Netflix.
Overhaul is watchable but not necessarily enjoyable through and through.