Various explanations have been offered for Grindhouse's underwhelming box-office performance, but it's entirely possible that audiences have been inundated with glorified B-movies for so long that the prospect of souped-up drive-in fare doesn't hold much novelty. Why spend three hours indulging Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's every adolescent fantasy when you can wait a few weeks and check out a WWE-engineered action movie about 10 tough guys forced to fight to the death for Internet voyeurs (The Condemned) or Redline, a brain-dead gearhead romp about the sleazy world of high-stakes private auto racing and the decadent playboys who bet millions on races like they were feeding nickels into a slot machine?
If Cannonball Run was Love Boat at a hundred miles per hour, Redline feels like the action-movie version of Love Boat's budget-minded Canadian syndicated sister show. In a wooden lead performance, singer Nadia Bjorlin plays a musician/driver who agrees to race for flashy mogul Eddie Griffin in the hope that it'll kick-start her music career. But when evil millionaire Angus Macfadyen takes Bjorlin's mom hostage, tightly wound Iraq War vet Nathan Phillips descends on McFadden's compound to retrieve her, leading to a winner-takes-all showdown between the respective camps of Griffin, Macfadyen, and film-world hotshot Tim Matheson.
Director Andy Cheng has a background in stunt work, and he directs like someone who's more comfortable driving a Ferrari into a brick wall than discussing character arcs or the myriad complexities of the human psyche. Cheng's camera leers unashamedly at all the curves, from the cars—producer/financier Daniel Sadek loaned his personal vehicle collection to the film—to the jiggling, silicone-enhanced women biding their time between Juvenile music videos.
Redline promises nothing but the cheap kicks it seldom delivers, yet it lacks the balls to deliver the hard R that'd drive away much of its adolescent audience. A PG-13 celebration of hot chicks, fast cars, and deplorable behavior is like diet Mountain Dew, near-beer, or an expletive-free version of Straight Outta Compton—a tame, watered-down version of the real thing.