I spent my Sunday night reviewing the just released flick, Drive, directed by Nicholas Winding Refn, a Danish filmmaker with a reputation for his auteur style. Some of you might be familiar with his other work like Bronson (2009) and Valhalla Rising (2009), which, in their own right, weren’t the most popular things to hit the big screen. But if you have a Netflix account then I’m pretty sure you have at least gazed at the film description. Or if you liked either then run your happy face to the theaters to see it.
Drive stars Ryan Gosling alongside the great Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, famous for his Hellboy movies and Sons of Anarchy biker gang leader, and Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad. Each of the characters fills the stereotypical roles of a mafia soldier, mentor, and kingpin. From a quick glance it would look like Drive is another macho, car filled, adrenaline rush, but before you write off this movie, let me help open your horizons.
The story starts with the Driver (Gosling) doing a job for two criminals late at night behind the wheel of a plain Jane looking Impala. He masterfully eludes the police by some quick wheelman tricks to the surprise of the audience, which was done in the cleanest and simplest of fashions.
Cut to next scene and Driver is strolling down the street wearing a police uniform. This is just another double take the director throws your way. He really is on set of a movie where he is about to perform some more stunt car skills for a few bills. This was all setup by his mechanic mentor, Shannon (Cranston), who also introduces Driver to the shady underworld characters for more work concerning a race car. These two partners, Nino (Perlman) and Bernie (Brooks), decide to pony up the cash for their next venture into stock car racing. I don’t want spoil the whole ride, but let’s just say these four characters will have some serious confrontations for the next hour or so.
To break it down to the rawest and most primitive form of story, Drive is an example of the duality of man; the evil that men can do, or the good that men can do; the Ying and Yang for a lack of a better term.
Driver is a quiet, considerate young mechanic with a penchant for doing the odd job that involving being a wheelman for criminals. His nice, handsome exterior immediately puts him on the level of a bad boy.
However, he takes the time to help out his cute single mother neighbor with her son and car. This plays on the sensitive feelings of the audience, forcing them to be comfortable with and to like the main character. While watching the movie, a few ladies actually swooned loudly when Driver takes his neighbor out on a date. Strangely though, it has no shots of Gosling without his shirt or in a steamy sex scene with the beautiful girl.
No, it isn’t a heart throb flick. No, it isn’t a macho action flick. No, it’s not an artsy indie flick that you drink wine and talk about with your French cinema friends. No, it’s not an exploitation film.
To define it would be to describe it as a self-styled, noir, cool, auteur, parable of man’s inner problems that exude into his surroundings. In laymen’s jargon, it’s the scorpion and the frog/alligator (insert another amphibious animal if you want), but with cooler cars and fantastic music. Just check out his jacket or listen closely to the dialogue to find hints to this concept—but I figured out before hand. Honest, I did.
Be warned, this movie is not going to pull any punches. Some of you ladies out there might be excited to see Ryan Gosling as a sexy, macho, stunt man; but once the violence starts be forewarned that it isn’t a pretty sight. A harsh and brutal use of the violence makes you remember that killing a man isn’t sexy or pretty or heroic. Sometimes it needs to be done. Sometimes people won’t look at you the same once you step across that line. So prepare for the ride that Drive will give you. It’s a cool and slick one even if it isn’t a rushed or adrenaline filled adventure.
Think of it as a special night out that doesn’t go anywhere particular but was probably more fun than drinking a couple of pints at Remerton. Trust me on that, the drive is always more fun than the destination.