Film Review “Drive”

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 40 mins
Film District

Our Score: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

In a darkened room a man speaks into a cell phone. The rules are simple. You have him for 5 minutes. In that time frame he’s yours, no matter what. A minute before and a minute after you’re on your own. Yes or know?

Hollywood stunt driver by day/robbery wheel man at night, our hero – we never learn his name, he’s identified in the credits as DRIVER – (Gosling) is the best of the best when it comes to driving. So much so that his boss, Shannon, (Bryan Cranston) wants to make a NASCAR driver out of him. To get the money for a car Shannon visits Bernie (Brooks) one of the neighborhood “lenders,” a former film producer looking to invest his money wisely. Years ago Shannon ran afoul of Nino (Ron Perlman) one of Bernie’s fellow “lenders,” whose men demonstrated to Shannon that there really IS a substantial penalty on a delinquent loan. While returning home one night DRIVER meets his neighbor, Irene (Mulligan), a single mom who lives with her young son. Chance keeps putting the two in the same places and a friendship begins to grow. But, like many things we approach, things are not as they seem.

Winner of the Best Director prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Drive” is a stylish film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a thriller? A romance? A heist film? All of the above? To be honest, I really don’t know. Though based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis, “Drive” has very little dialogue. The majority of the story is told through camera angles and a musical score that seems to have been composed in 1985. Gosling is serviceable here but he’s not given much of a back story – why does he do what he does? All he does is squint, talk softly and resemble a very young Christoph Waltz? He also spends his time constantly clenching his hand menacingly. As the mom next store, Mulligan is fine. Brooks, who I have followed since he started submitting short films on “Saturday Night Live” in the 70s does a good job as a bad guy, a role he’s also played in “The Simpson’s Movie.” Perlman is suitably evil and it’s always nice to see Russ Tamblyn (Riff in “West Side Story”) on the big screen. This is the good part.

I’m still confused as to what story director Refn wanted to tell. There are some fine chase scenes – perhaps an homage to Peter Yates’ “Bullitt” or William Friedkins’ “The French Connection” or “To Live and Die in L.A.” But there are also a lot of moody close ups accompanied by bad songs right out of 1985 – perhaps an homage to John Hughes? And there’s an awful lot of blood – props to Quentin Tarantino? This is the bad part.

I won’t deny that Renf has a way with a camera and, since I don’t know what his competition was, I will assume that he WAS the best director at Cannes this year. But slow motion action and gallons of blood do not a great film make. In this case, it only makes an average one.

2 Replies to “Film Review “Drive””

  1. You might be interested in the following review by a Swiss/Italian film critic (http://masedomani/com). Unfortunately, it’s in Italian. I translated it into English for a friend of mine. Forgive me for any typos or incoherences.

    Drive bewitches everyone except us
    09/02/2011 By V. Leave a Comment

    The work that has bewitched Cannes is being shown in Piazza Grande in Locarno before landing in theaters in September, and we are there, looking forward to enjoying the film that caused a sensation, catapulted the director Nicolas Winding Refn among the big Danish movie directors thanks to the Palme d’Or for Best Director and propelled Ryan Gosling into Hollywood’s olympus. And … therefore we were very, very disappointed!

    The masterpiece that will go down in the history of cinematography I have not seen, or perhaps I failed to fully appreciate it, so much so that my eyelids in certain passages literally dropped and I had to draw on all available resources to keep awake. For almost two hours I waited for something to happen which justified all the headlines read in recent months but was sorely disappointed: the film is soporific, slow, made up of silences, ‘frozen’ expressions and a pathos only perceived by those who want to see it at all costs.

    And it doesn’t get better when adrenaline is supposed to pump: the fact that all events revolve around a top-notch stunt driver who makes extra money as driver during heists does not automatically imply that the film is an action-thriller . Not at all. This is a film that moves as if it were in eternal slow-motion mode which, though this may be taken by some as a univocal sign of a mature and high-quality film, as far as I am concerned it is only an attempt to revive films that we saw in the past and hoped to never have to see again.

    I am beginning to believe that the acting skills of the lead lie in being able to remain impassive and inexpressive for the entire duration of the movie, that, although it only totalled 95 minutes, it felt longer and more trying than the integral version of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, which – while consisting of 15 hours of operatic music – at least has an engrossing plot. In this movie everything is trivial, smells heavily of déjà-vu and is devoid of any spark. Our solitary, pensive (?) and perfectionistic (anti)hero, once he opens himself up to emotions (love, albeit unreciprocated) will gradually wreck the routine that allowed him to excel, unleashing a series of events that will have devastating repercussions on all those associated with him.

    Based on the pulp novel by James Sallis, with a rather pessimistic view of the human being who, held captive by the sad and harsh reality from which he cannot break free even if he wants to, is bound to be a loser, this is a film that, more than the lack of content or messages, suffers from an excessive lack of life and vitality. The monochromatic and gloomy images that portray drab, sad interiors, populated by dull and lifeless faces that can’t even rely on dialogue which would be a last chance to make them come to life, leave a feeling of sadness/emptiness in the audience.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *