Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)

What's it about? Ryan Gosling plays a Stuntman With No Name who earns a living on the side as a getaway driver for hire. He has a strict code, though - he waits 5 minutes exactly for the heist men, no more, no less. Then he goes, whether they're back or not. However, when he gets involved with his pretty next door neighbour (Carey Mulligan), his loner nature and ordered code is challenged and he is forced into taking a few dangerous risks for her sake.

Is it any good? If Jean-Pierre Melville had made Grand Theft Auto, it might have turned out like this urban noir crime drama. It has a distinctly retro 80s vibe, with garish pink credits, squealing tyre car chases, slo-mo sequences and an electronic synthesizer soundtrack. Unlike most 80s US actioners, however, it strips out the humour and bombast to replace them with moody, semi-existential themes more associated with European crime movies. So we get plenty of stylish photography and terse conversations with minimal dialogue, punctuated by moments of sudden extreme violence (boot to the head, hammer to the hand, fork to the eye etc) as the slightly illogical plot progresses. And that's all perfectly fine, since it's carried with aplomb on the back of another excellent and charismatic performance by Gosling, for whom this is another star-making vehicle (see what I did there?). The sad thing is you just know boy racer petrolheads who see this will think they are as cool as him. They aren't.

I don't trust you. What do others think? It's been very well received by critics and Refn won Best Director at Cannes for it. Audiences haven't exactly flocked in their droves to see it (only a total of 4 people at the screening I attended) and those that did weren't entirely won over by it. One woman is attempting to sue the distributors for the misleading trailer, because she encountered a film very different from The Fast & the Furious type of film she was expecting. Perhaps mindful of the fact that many people would consider this a blessing, she also alleges the film is anti-semitic for good measure. Amongst suppressed sniggers, the case continues.

Anything else I should know? Refn cites several influences on the film, layering a semi-mythical Grimm's Fairy Tale element onto James Sallis' source story. Movie-wise, in addition to the usual classic car chase movies, it recalls the likes of Taxi Driver and Le Samourai, as well as nodding towards Western characters such as Shane and The Man with No Name. The Taxi Driver connection is furthered by the presence of Albert Brooks, whose menacing turn here might not be what you would expect from one of the avuncular producers of The Simpsons. Judging by his actions here, he's been watching too much Itchy & Scratchy.

What does the Fonz think? He's the unknown stuntman, who makes Gosling look so cool.

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous24/8/12

    A bit of a True Romance or a Life Less Ordinary with no humour. At all. But replaced with serious mood. Good job.