DJ Sets and a Nightclub Screening Can’t Hide How Boring Harmony Korine’s Aggro Dr1ft Is

Context is everything, and filmmaker Harmony Korine is certainly building a lot of it around Aggro Dr1ft, the film he first premiered last fall at the Venice Film Festival. Since then, Korine took the film on tour, screening it in Los Angeles at a strip club, in London at Evolutionary Arts Hackney, and in New York at Bushwick standard Elsewhere. At each stop of the tour, the screening was followed by DJ sets by Korine and producer AraabMuzik, who scored the film. All of this coincided with a Hauser & Wirth gallery show and the launch of EDGLRD, a Miami-based “creative lab and art collective” meant to create a new kind of entertainment.

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Still from Harmony Korine's film Aggro Dr1ft.

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Like everything with this “enfant terrible,” it’s never clear how much, if any, of this is ironic or a troll. The overwhelming feeling I was left with upon leaving Elsewhere last month, however, was boredom. 

When I read last September that there was a wave of walkouts from the film’s premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, I had assumed it was because the material was objectionable. After all, Korine has delighted in shocking and disturbing audiences since his earliest films, regularly offering graphic—and in some cases unsimulated—sex, typically with a side of distasteful violence. Now, having seen Aggro Dr1ft, which tomorrow finishes out a theatrical run, I can assure you that isn’t the case. There is nothing that might inspire that reaction, or frankly any reaction at all, besides irritation.

The film follows the story of Bo (Jordi Mollà), the self-described “world’s greatest assassin” as he takes on a job to kill a demon-horned crime lord in Miami. Bo is also a family man, balancing his violent work with time with his kids and wife (Chanya Middleton), who goes unnamed. Most of the time, Bo’s spouse is depicted either writhing on their bed or twerking for the camera.

A still from Aggro Dr1ft.

To the extent there is a plot, that is it, aside from a meeting with the man who hires (and pays him) for the job and a short interlude on a boat with his protégé Zion (Travis Scott). The film is filled with underwritten monologue by Bo, who speaks endlessly about being the world’s greatest assassin, and repetitive dialogue from each character, as if they each contained just one trait.

There is possibly a kernel of a good idea here. If one were to read the filmmaker’s intentions generously, I might say that Korine, known for exploring America’s id, has made a power fantasy staged using the language of video games. His film contains the same stilted dialogue, the same emphasis on sex and violence, and the same flat female characters as, say, the Grand Theft Auto series. Plus, Aggro Dr1ft has its own stylized aesthetic, with everything shot using thermal imaging. 

A less generous reading (and one that, in my opinion, would be more accurate) would suggest that Korine hasn’t even thought through his intentions. That much is made clear by the fact that the same half-formed ideas repeat over and over, making the film’s 80-minute runtime feel like three hours. The film consists primarily of loops of swinging machetes, a Ferrari driving down highways, and close-ups of the characters’ faces. Bo, and the other characters repeat their underwritten dialogue over and over in a robotic monotone. The repetition might be the point, but it’s also pretty dull.

Women, when they do appear in this film, are often shown supine or twerking. Bo’s wife repeats how lonely she is; in the climax, as the demon crime lord prepares to fight Bo and humps the air, a woman cries while tied to a bed in what appears to be rope bondage. It’s all so tedious. 

One might say that Korine reduces filmmaking in Aggro Dr1ft to its violent core: we watch Scarface because, on some level, we want to be Al Pacino, if only for a moment. But, even in that generous reading, who in the American filmgoing public doesn’t know that? It’s an idea that’s been explored so much that, to do so in 2024, is just a roundabout way of letting your audience have their cake and eat it too. Ironic misogyny, like ironic racism, is still misogyny, as if that hadn’t been made clear over the last decade of the internet. 

The thermal imaging filter, which has been colored over with animation and digital paint, can at times create striking visuals. There are rare moments of beauty, as when Bo looks out over a sunset from his balcony and the colors briefly flip to reveal a towering demon. At times, an overlay of wires or tattoos seem to crawl up characters’ skin as they move. But more often, the hues muddy and stick together, and the neons quickly lose their shine. One is left with the unmistakable impression that, were Korine to remove the gimmicky filter, we’d be left with some of the ugliest, most try-hard footage ever put to film.

Korine DJs during the afterparty for the screening of Aggro Dr1ft at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, New York.
Photos by Mike Vitelli. Courtesy of EDGLRD.

Aggro Dr1ft’s long and much-hyped tour feels like pageantry built up to disguise this film’s vacuousness. And that pageantry continued on well after the Elsewhere screening ended, too. Rows of chairs were cleared from the dancefloor, and AraabMuzik began his set, surrounded by his entourage and several bikini-clad women pole-dancing. In the back, EDGLRD employees sold merchandise for the collective—skateboard decks, T-shirts, hoodies, wearable masks, and so on. The audience swayed laconically, barely dancing, or ignored the set entirely to talk with friends. 

I can’t speak for the Los Angeles screening, or the EDGLRD Boiler Room set during Art Basel Miami Beach in December, which seemed to have a who’s who of attendees. But the crowd at Elsewhere was almost comically dead for the tenor and volume of dance music being played.  This did not seem like some new form of entertainment, bringing the Miamified aesthetic of Korine’s more recent feature films into the real world. Or if it was, the new world of entertainment is decidedly manufactured and safe in addition to being incredibly lame.

The entire night felt simultaneously like a 50-year-old and a 12-year-old’s idea of cool, which makes sense given that the 51-year-old told Art in America last year that his sensibility is that of “12-year-old moron.” Korine said at the time,  “I’m just like a child. It’s arrested development.” I guessed as much.

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