Skip to main content

Review: Drive

Ryan Gosling's Driver seems right out of a magazine pictorial that the current star frequents anymore. His stare is cold and indefinite. His trademark jacket is a little out of date, but it says who he is without words.

A nameless protagonist is not a regular occurrence in cinemas today, though it would fit right in with the westerns of years ago. In a lot of ways Drive is the new western, with a fresh decal. Stoic leading man, a lot of money at stake, and several bad men waiting to get their hands on it.

Drive has been oft-described as a genre film, and stylistically it is. Nicolas Winding Refn has the same flair for chases, fights, and the type of blood lust that would make one think Quentin Tarantino is being too safe in his older age. The violence is quite stylized though, if your stomach is strong enough to take it.

However, Drive is more character focused where other films like Collateral are about plot. A stuntman by day, getaway driver by night, Gosling's Driver doesn't resemble what most people refer to as an "L.A. Guy". He keeps his mouth shut, does his job, and waits for something to thrill him in the meantime, that is until he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan).

Upon meeting Irene the Driver's life spirals into more hideous acts of brutality than he ever could have anticipated. And having him blend into that world right before her eyes is a shocking experience for her and the audience. He wants love, though we all know he probably won't ever have it.

Michael Mann's Thief and William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. are inspirations, but Drive is more conservative in its focus. Refn lights L.A. up beautifully, there are no slums here. Just neon lights and sun-lit rivers for skipping stones. The long takes don't bring to mind the ADD focus of the Fast and Furious franchise, each second spent lingering tells us everything we need to know. Cliff Martinez's score throbs like a heart beat amped on Red Bull. Often scores find a way to inadvertently tone down chase scenes, but Martinez nails it here.

Gosling may have finally shed his Notebook image with a McQueen strut and corresponding toothpick hanging out of his lip. I don't know if Gosling can sneak into a crowded Best Actor field but, God, would that be something. Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston are cast against type here, but they excel in their respective parts. Ultimately, Drive is a non-starter for the Oscar season, but it is one damn fine film.

***1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

The Dream Is Real

For my money there is nothing cooler than the idea of a city folding in on itself.