Friday, November 4, 2011

Review - Drive

You can say anything about a movie you think is bad, but justifying how bad it is by taking the studio producing the movie you saw, to court and handing out many excuses to get your money back that is more than what you pay for? You'll be damming PR for a trailer you believed was on an action movie and you'll be damming yourself if you lost the case. I boast about how much the Transformers movies were awful to a friend who is  hardcore about it, but I didn't want to sue Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg for making a shitty franchise. I just forget about it.

This is Drive, a film that I would expect people to be jaded with. If you watch the trailer for Drive, don't believe in it because a) it told crucial points of the story and b) it's not Fast and the Furious people; and if you find something that pissed you off about this movie... I totally understand and I don't care.

Drive is a movie that asks you to sit back and watch Ryan Gosling lose it until the end. Gosling plays a nameless driver who drives for movies as a stuntsperson and a mechanic working for the hapless Shannon (Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston). By night, he's the guy from Grand Theft Auto. He drives for criminals finishing off their biggest heists for five minutes of his time. When that time is up, he leaves them hanging. Driver is introduced to mobsters Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman) and when he is asked to hold off one more heist, it goes wrong and Driver has to handle it himself to save his own life.

Get in. Don't give me a blowjob when you're at it.
Drive is a heist movie that brings up a few cliches such as one-last-job, heist-gone-wrong and bring-the-money-save-the-girl tropes. But director Nicolas Winding Refn strips these cliches and brings them to life by adding suspense that grabs you into the edge of your seat almost 91% of the running time. He does that by shooting the slick action based and inspired on European thrillers and action movies in the 1970s and those directed by Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Steve McQueen. Where movies such as Transformers and Fast and Furious tend to care about its action and turns it sloppy, the action in Drive is controlled but at the same time it's confrontingly violent. Very violent. Drive plays out as a neo-noir with some tight editing, gorgeous cinematography and some bright shots of Los Angeles at night. Add in the retro soundtrack featuring four 80s music tracks by Cliff Martinez and you've just made Drive the coolest film of 2011.

Ryan Gosling has approximately ten lines of dialogue but he hands out a raw performance of a lifetime playing a natural loner; from the first ten minutes he seemed harmless but then he becomes manically insane and creepy. With Drive, Gosling seems to channel Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and any well known character that Clint Eastwood used to play from Dirty Harry and The Man With No Name.

While there are a lot of people who thinks that Carey Mulligan is miscast as the neighbour who holds the unobtained love interest archtype in the movie and yet the apple in Driver, I think she did a pretty decent job and I see some good chemistry between Gosling. Bryan Cranston plays the only good person in this film and he's actually believable in his character, but the standouts are Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman who gets the best lines out of the film; with Brooks, he pulls off a chilling role away from his usual comedic fare.

The problem with this movie is that in order to enjoy this movie, you have to understand the direction and here Refn doesn't really simplify anything for you to watch for anybody it almost felt like an ordinary and boring arthouse film. E.g - At times the suspense can become way too much, leading to one scene to turn predictable.

I can see how much praise Drive had been getting and I am fine with that. This film won the Best Director award at this year's Cannes Film Festival. It is a stylish movie that would ultimately win over film buffs so they can actually see what sort of movies had paid tribute to. For me though who haven't seen any of the movies they expect me to remember, Drive is a movie that would almost weigh in most of your patience. This is not just a neo-noir; it's a neo-western, it's a comic book movie not based on a comic book, it's a character study of an urban loner and at one point, it's a horror movie. And it's good that Drive executes it so well, but it's really frustrating to endure onto the many aspects of the film you really want to be won over.

But I would be happy if this film gain a cult status with the likes of Fight Club and Donnie Darko because there's lots to admire. It has earnest performances particularly from Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks, the direction and writing is very slick.

So does Drive deserves your time? Yes. Is it worth a second viewing? Maybe.

B+ (8.4)

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