We Are the Children with Devil Faces: AGGRO DR1FT (2024) - Reviewed


Images courtesy of EDGLRD

Harmony Korine has always been obsessed with youth. During his early career, when he was in his twenties, he focused on the turbulent time of childhood, when young people fight back against joining the bland status quo of adulthood. In Kids (1995), directed by Larry Clark and written by Korine, his narrative follows dysfunctional families and the children who felt abandoned by them. It's a raw and unflinching look at the lifestyle of unsupervised urban youth who are giving in to all of their hedonistic desires and impulses. These are not your typical honor roll students as they spend their day wandering the streets aimlessly, doing drugs, having casual sex, getting into fights, and vandalizing public property. As he grew older, Korine's viewpoint became more cynical and cruel, which is highly apparent in Ken Park (2002), again directed by frequent collaborator Clark and penned by Korine. If Kids can be considered a study of urban youth, then Ken Park is the flip side of that coin; it focuses on bored suburban teens and the insidious acts they get into.

Fast-forward to 2024, and Korine is now in his fifties, right in the middle-age quagmire. He is no longer the young, cool, transgressive director; he is part of the establishment. His previous check-in with "What are the kids up to?" was Spring Breakers (2012), a dreamy and slick journey into apathetic materialism and organized crime. So, what are the kids up to now? The proliferation of YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, and social media influencers (which was burgeoning in the era of Spring Breakers) and the popularity of short-form videos have transformed the media and entertainment landscape. When one only has thirty seconds to get someone's attention, the style has to trump the substance, and the right aesthetic is essential, especially in the algorithm-based economy of the modern internet.

AGGRO DR1FT (2024) attempts to bridge the gap between film and video games, an experiment that feels more like an extended music video than a formal narrative work. It follows an assassin named BO (Jordi Mollà) who has been tasked to take out a Florida-based crime lord. BO spends more of his time philosophizing about what it means to be a killer, his home life, and the general state of the world. Much of the exposition is delivered via his inner monologue and musings, almost entirely comprised of some of the most cliché writing ever to grace the screen. Mixed in with this self-serious rambling are bizarre side characters who spout things like "Dance, bitches! Dance!" which has the effect of recreating a Call of Duty matchmaking lobby. Is BO a representation of Korine himself, doomed to exist in a world he only takes seriously, forced to create production companies called EDGLRD, and hopefully be deemed "based" by a 20-year-old in a Discord chat room?

The decision to shoot AGGRO DR1FT in infrared elevates it entirely, giving it an otherworldly look and feel. Deep saturated reds, blues, and oranges light up what would be run-of-the-mill cinematography, drawing attention to the center mass of the humans, who look like they are glowing from within by supernatural means. Facial features are indistinguishable modern art pieces, and occasionally, the picture breaks up with macroblocking, like a game experiencing graphical glitches. On top of the infrared stylization, they added extra surreal imagery in post like angel wings and demons, which calls to mind early '00s aesthetics and the Doom franchise. Unfortunately, a few sections use generative AI, which cheapens the effect and simultaneously dates the film. The score is haunting and beautiful, provided by Dj AraabMuzik.

It is unclear if Korine is mocking or admiring Gen Z culture; it could be both simultaneously. It's a vibes movie, and I see why they showed it in strip clubs. It would be a hit on a big-screen TV in a smoke-filled bar, music blaring, a beer in hand, and a strong buzz. While AGGRO DR1FT doesn't work as a film, it takes such a big provocative swing that it demands at least one viewing, at the very least, just for the experience.

--Michelle Kisner