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 His trademark jacket is a little out of date, but it says who he is without words.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

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 …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…