‘Drive’ Double Review!

A Review by SLAMADAM!

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Albert Brooks

Plot: A driver (Ryan Gosling) becomes involved with his single mother neighbor (Carey Mulligan). When her husband returns from prison, he needs the driver’s help to steal some money to repay a debt that could put his family in harm’s way. When the job is botched, the driver finds himself entangled with the lives of some local gangsters.

 Review: This movie reminds me of Reese Witherspoon’s line from Walk the Line. Steady as a train, sharp as a razor. That is Drive. It is absolutely hypnotic. It views Los Angeles through a dreamy lens of equal parts pride and shame. It is dirty and filmy and full of seedy characters, but there are so many sparks of hope among those.Ryan Gosling has a silent demeanor. It is both disheartening and disarming at the same time. Not many actors are capable of having that look as if all the machines in their head are hard at work. He plays a socially inept character who falls for an equally socially inept person. The romance between them buds quickly and is done so through subtle glances and understated facial features. The conversations that Carey Mulligan and Gosling have with each other without using words is mind-bending. They suck you in and sell you on their relationship with great ease. Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, and Ron Perlman are perfect noir supporting players. They get absolutely lost in their characters working with little screen time or backstory yet playing characters so finely developed you feel like you can read their history on the wear and tear in their faces.

If director Refn is capable of anything, it is creating a moody and bloody atmosphere that plays with your emotions. Their is a silent thrill to it, one that rivals No Country for Old Men. What the two have in common is they almost always drive you to the edge of your seat and leave you there, but unlike No Country, Drive goes the extra step and delivers a pay off of shock and awe. Refn actively and creatively attempts to shock and awe you in a time when most tricks of the trade have been used already. That shock comes in the form of brutal violence that comes almost out of nowhere. I am not anti-gore by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think some things are better off unseen. No amount of head crushing would be more dramatic than the raw anger in Gosling’s face while he stomped down on said head.

The soundtrack is an anomaly. It is filled with pop songs that seem to go against the tone of the movie. Instead of feeling tacked on or jammed in, they actually transform the tone. They symbolize some kind of escapism for Gosling’s character when he switches to auto-pilot and navigates the L.A. midnight. It removes him from his own gritty reality, but when he is forced to face the reality, it is coupled with an amazing score. It is long drawn out notes feeling like the soundtrack to empty space or darkness. It compliments the bulk of the plot incredibly well reinforcing the hypnotic, dream state of the film.

Drive is quite the accomplishment. It is a gritty action movie that has a focus on nuance. It is a tragic romance with brutal violence and a bad attitude. It is like the best dream and the worst nightmare combined.

TEN out of TEN

A Review by G-FUNK!

Being a lurker on various movie related sites I had read plenty of positive reviews and much hype for the second feature from the awesomely named Nicholas Winding Rfen, and was keen as mustard to see it. Did it live up to the hype? Absolutely – but not for the reasons I expected. Since Slamadam has covered the brilliant plotting and character work – and I agree with everything he said – I’ll start by talking about that.

For starters it was a much slower paced film then what I was expecting. It had already been brought to my attention that it is not going to be anything like the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise, so I don’t have to sue anyone, but Rfen’s debut film, Bronson, moved at a cracking pace and was confined into a small locale. Drive, conversely, has a much wider geographic setting but is in no hurry to get anywhere. Not that it’s boring, nosiree. Unlike many films of the past decade the director has exercised strict discipline in the editing. There’s nothing that doesn’t need to be said, there’s no ego and no padded action sequences. Instead we’re treated to a slow burning tension. The opening driving sequence is steady and measured, restricted to mostly tight shots, yet the viewers heart is left pounding.

Drive also benefits from having the coolest ensemble this side of Ocean’s Eleven. The opening credits plays like a shortlist of the trendiest people in Hollywood. Ryan Gosling is already making plenty of ‘Man of the Year’ features and cements his reputation on about three pages worth of dialogue during the whole film, Carey Mulligan is picking out the best roles available and Byran Cranston, Christina Hendricks and Ron Pearlman fill out the rest of cast with the expected brilliant performances.

If there’s any one complaint, it’s that casting such a silent, stoic protagonist makes it difficult to connect with the character early in the film, but I couldn’t see it being done any other way.

NINE outta TEN