Drive Yourself Morose with Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn
After writing that Kentucky Fried Christianity piece, I told IHL Editor Richie that my next review/commentary would be for Justin Lin’s Fast Five (2011). Said piece has yet to be written. This is, in part, because I recently encountered and became enamored with another Lin film: Finishing the Game (2007). An article that addresses both will come eventually.
In the meanwhile, lest I become known as the dude who only likes to talk about old-ass films, here are my thoughts about a slightly more-recent film: Drive (2011).
It was released on Blu-ray and DVD late last month so it’s still relevant, right? RIGHT? There may be some vague spoilers below. Also, check out a far more entertaining video review of Drive by indie filmmaker Irina Prokhorenko here*. We met while working on the 2011 micro-budget film, Ultrasonic. Anyway, thoughts on the film in no particular order of importance:
1. What’s up with the pink Dirty Dancing credits font?
2. It’s an actor’s film. At some point during the movie, I found myself thinking that. Drive is punctuated with the violence of an action film, but not those of John Woo or even John McClane. There are no slow motion action scenes or double-fisted pistols. The plot is familiar territory, but thank God that it doesn’t fit neatly within the mold of recent rash of revenge flicks. The magic within the quiet moments highlighted in the film are loosed by the actors. Of course, the pacing and feel of the film is also owed to Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) who has said that the film was a tribute to Taxi Driver (as well as being inspired by, oddly enough, Halloween and the Transporter). Come to think of it, around the time Ryan Gosling gets slapped by Irene (Carey Mulligan), I did think Travis Bickle.
3. The man with no name: Speaking of silent, no-named, lone-wolf antiheroes, Gosling plays it well. This is a character we’ve seen before in film many times over in the action genre. Gosling represents more of an archetype of masculinity than a fleshed-out character, which isn’t a knock on his performance. He brings nuance to a character that seems to resist it on page. What we do know about the driver is that he knows cars; knows how to fix them and certainly how to drive them. He seems (aside from the aforementioned Taxi Driver scene) collected at every turn of the film. If you have a doubt about how the film wants you to feel for the character, refer to the song “Real Hero” by College, part of the film’s final sounders.
4. The romance: Carey Mulligan is lovely, and the thing between her and Gosling is as delicate as a smoke ring. Again, an actor’s film. I’m thankful that the film’s romance (if it may be called that) resists the heavy-handed play preferred by Hollywood. We are drawn to the myth of things as though they are always more fascinating than the reality.
5. The side characters: Ron Perlman as the over-the-top gangster boss, Albert Brooks as his blade-happy business partner. Er. Just go with it, okay? Hollywood gets its bone too. Cranston in a scuzzy supporting role, Christina Hendericks in the briefest of cameos. The former is more notable in this film than the latter, but both end in tears.
*Footnote: Irina notes the scorpion. I also wonder about its significance in the book. The film contains one line about the scorpion. Gosling’s yellow scorpion jacket is indeed totally badass. Also, I enjoyed the soundtrack pairing. Perhaps you might too.