26 September 2011


Ryan Gosling is shown in a scene from "Drive."
 "Drive" is proof action movies need not be a deafening assault on the senses nor a nonstop barrage of explosions and feats that defy the laws of physics. "Drive" is an action movie with a brain, that allows its characters to use theirs, that spends more time focusing on its characters than the action around them.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is at the movie's center. He's a taciturn protagonist in the tradition of Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name; one even wonders if his employer ("Breaking Bad's" Bryan Cranston), who owns an auto repair shop, knows his name. He also works as a stunt driver for Hollywood movies and moonlights as a wheelman.

He doesn't carry a gun or go inside to take an active role in his clients' heists. He drives. He gives his clients a five-minute window to get the job done while he waits in the car, his watching ticking away.

When it's time for the getaway, it isn't all about speed. The Driver is smarter than his police pursuers. He knows the terrain—pause under an overpass to elude a helicopter, slip into a parking garage at a basketball game, and the job is done.

A neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), catches the Driver's attention; it feels like this is a rare occurrence. They appear to form a connection, while an even stronger bond develops between the Driver and Irene's young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Irene's husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is due home from prison in a week, putting a strain on these budding relationships.

Standard got involved with some bad people while behind bars, and the Driver agrees to help get them off his back, thus protecting Irene and Benicio. It doesn't go as planned, blood is spilled, and it all leads back to Nino (Ron Perlman), a crime lord who works out of a pizzeria in a strip mall, and Bernie Rose (a scary Albert Brooks), a movie producer who's even more sinister than Nino.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn works with silences, adopting a hypnotic, contemplative tone. The supporting cast, which also includes "Mad Men's" Christina Hendricks, provides enough personality to balance Gosling's tight-lipped, inward performance.

When it comes, the action is sudden and brutal—a jarring experience instead of the fetishized violence of so many other movies. I could not detect any digital effects enhancing the stunts, which have a real weight and visceral quality to them.

"Drive" is not the "Fast and Furious" knockoff you might think it is based on the advertising. It is far more artistic and thoughtful than any of those films could ever hope to be. Consider it a thinking man's action movie.

Greg's Grade: A

(Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity. 100 minutes.)

1 comment:

otherGreg said...

I don't, for the life of me, understand the appeal of this movie.

Oh, wait, yes I do! Ladies and gents (mostly ladies) I present to you Mr. Ryan Goseling. Goseling's strength in the past has been portraying subtle, wounded, emotionally available guys and doing a damn fine job of it. Then America fell in love with him. Now, in Drive, he's little more than a handsome blank slate that the audience can either project themselves onto or on top of (or inside of or whatever).

The first scene shows him as an awesome, smart, super-man action figure that men can pretend to be and women can pretend to be sitting next to in the theatre. The second sequence shows that he's slighly awkward and quiet around people (namely girls), which lets the men pretend that's how THEY are around women, and let's the women in the audience imagine themselves as the only person to truly appreciate this reserved man, this diamond in the rough. And that's pretty much ALL we ever learn about him, our nameless "Driver". His thoughts, his ideas, even his emotional state are a damn mystery - if you aren't projecting yours onto him, that is. Otherwise, the movie holds nothing for you and is a dull, brutal, slow moving action flick that people insist is 'cerebral'.

What's smart about this movie? Because it moves slowly? He fights the mob with his car (and sometimes a hammer) to protect his blonde dream girl from some vague threats. Also, there's a heist gone bad (that we don't get to see). Sorry, I'm trying to find the parts of this that are 'smart'. The camera angles are neat... some of the lighting is impressive... the music is AWFUL. So... I don't know, I can't figure it.

It's not a bad movie, and people seem to really (really!) respond to it. But I warn you that, if you don't love the "Driver" "character" (read: Ryan Goseling) on sight, instantly, wihtout thinking or expecting anything - this movie has nothing for you. It's an action movie that's no fun, a character movie with almost no character, and... cerebral... somehow.

...sorry, I just finally saw this movie and wanted to talk about. Thanks!