Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, & Ron Perlman
Based on Drive by James Sallis
Odd Lot Entertainment/FilmDistrict
When someone takes a movie that is essentially about fast-paced car drivers out to kill each other over girls and money, you would expect the film to have a rhythm or beat to it. Instead, Nicolas Winding Refn decided to make it an art piece, the way Warhol tried to turn a can of soup into art. It was not that the image could be discussed as anything but art, it was in fact art. But just because you slap the term "art" on it, does not make it a quality piece. Same can be said for Drive.
The film has an intense opening with an immediate hook and leaves the audience struggling for surface from there on in. The pace of the movie is like driving an old Buick for a get away. Some places (down hill maybe?) you're gonna race like a demon, but most spots you will slow down to near-halt. This movie has a lot of moments where the story gets stuck in the mud.
It is a shame too, because the acting is easily considered top-notch. I would never peg Gosling as the kind of character who can play a street smart, quiet, intense getaways driver. But he pulls it off. Granted, the role he played Keanu Reeves could have also done 10-15 years ago, easily, because you need the acting ability of a shoe to play the character, but Gosling really had to tone-down his usual style to fit in this character's shoes.
The nameless hero (a point I find moot nowadays in current film, to not name your character is to disassociate most audiences, especially when you release the film to mainstream audiences), is a car repair man by day for a nice, over-zealous, limpy man know as Shannon (Cranston). Another wonderfully portrayed character, Cranston gives you the belief that this man is on his last thread as he bargains with Bernie Rose (Brooks), a hard-nosed mobster and ex-film producer, who is to buy a NASCAR vehicle through Shannon for our Nameless Hero to drive into races (and presumably win). A bit like when Qui-Gon Jinn trying to convince Watto to buy the bet that young Anakin can drive the pod in the Tattooine race.
However; as is proven with every good mob film, deals with mobsters are never simple or easy. Despite best efforts. Enter Nino (Perlman), the Jewish Mobster and associate of Rose. In a situational series of madcap plot devices, the girl Irene (Mulligan) who The Driver has fallen for, loses her boyfriend Standard when The Driver tries to assist him steal some extortion money, unknowingly from Nino, the aforementioned partner of his new benefactor. Yes, things just got hairy.
From here it is just a series of bad choices leading to an unavoidable end. The amount of symbolism used in simple things such as character names (Standard is no coincidence, the guy operates very "standardly", and Rose is sweet at first but quite prickly beneath the surface) are probably going to fly right over most mainstream audiences. This movie is (wrongfully) being marketed as a clever action-flick and it is far from it. Aside from the monstrously loud, almost unfitting soundtrack by Cliff Martinez, the only real beneficial part of this film is the cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel. Combined with the use of setting suns and rising moons in the city skyline, the use of lush colors and dark shadows, the symbolism is there but so is the beauty. Neither of these things can save the film from an absurd plot, however.
This movie is probably not worth most of Students' time or money. The film can be viewed on DVD release (I wouldn't even splurge for the Blu-Ray honestly, despite the wonderful cinematography) and it would essentially do the same for you as it would in theaters. In fact, if they release an unedited version, or a Director's Cut, more of the story might add up, so I would highly suggest the wait. Which won't be long, this movie can't last in theaters too much longer. Hopefully it will pull a U-Turn and Drive its way out of the box-office, opening up a "parking spot" for a real action flick, "Real Steel".
[Edited on 3/10/11 by Ult_Sm86]