September 17, 2011
Review - " Drive " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan
Cranston, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, and Ron Perlman.
When a Hollywood stuntman and in-demand getaway driver finds
himself double-crossed by the mob, his only choice is to drive for his
The story is simple: a nameless man (referred in the credits as
‘Driver’) works by day as mechanic and part-time stunt driver, and by
night he offers his driving skills to criminal as their getaway driver. He
falls in love with a woman in his apartment block but her husband is
soon released from jail and this is where the plot thickens. Deep in
debt to ‘people on the outside’, the husband needs to get his hands
on some cash and quickly before he’s killed. Driver offers to help in a
pawn shop heist because he loves the man’s wife, and a bloodbath
follows in the fallout of the robbery.
It’s a story we’ve seen many times before, and this is where Drive falls
into the ‘standard fare’ category of movies.
It's significant that the character is referred to as “The Driver” in the
credits, instead of by name. This is because he might as well not have
one. He has no friends, no family, few possessions. No one knows his
past. The only defining characteristic of the character is that he does,
This life of perfect isolation is disturbed when he starts to notice a
woman who lives in the apartment down the hall. She is pretty, small in stature, and struggling to raise her young son on a
waitress’ salary. He keeps his distance, avoiding contact, until the engine of her old car starts to smoke. This is the only
way The Driver could possibly approach her. Engaging in small talk when meeting someone new is a vast mystery to him,
and he wouldn’t have anything to talk about if he tried to chat her up in a conventional way.
Reading up to this point would lend one to think that
the movie is a romance, a gentle character study
where two lonely people find each other when they
most need to. But the love story comes off the rails
when it turns out that the pretty neighbor has a
husband who is just now being released from prison,
a husband who is being pressured by some very bad
people to take part in a robbery.
This is of small importance to The Driver, until he
finds out that the thugs are not above threatening
those close to the husband in order to gain
compliance. It is at this point that he discovers that
he is willing to perform any action, make any sacrifice,
and take on frightful enemies in order to keep the
only friends he has in the world safe from harm.
The cast is chock full of talented people. Ryan Gosling does a great job of conveying what the main character is thinking
with little more than a flat gaze and a twitch of his lips. Carey Mulligan is the very definition of vulnerability. Bryan Cranston,
perhaps best known for his work on the cable television show Breaking Bad, plays the sleazy garage owner where The
Driver finds the vehicles needed for his less-than-legal chauffeur service. Ron Perlman portrays a small time criminal boss
with very bad judgement.
Worthy of special mention is Albert Brooks, someone known mainly for his work in comedy. In this film he plays a former
movie producer who has branched off into less savory lines of work. There is absolutely nothing funny about his character,
and Brooks manages the seemingly impossible task of portraying a completely ruthless man who you still wouldn’t mind
having as your favorite uncle.
Almost every reviewer seems to feel Drive is the
greatest cinematic experience since the dawn of the
golden age of Hollywood.
Roger Ebert: "...much more real than the usual
action-crime-chase concoctions we've grown tired of.
Here is a movie with respect for writing, acting and
craft. It has respect for knowledgable moviegoers."
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "...a brilliant piece of
nasty business that races on a B-movie track until it
switches to the dizzying fuel of undiluted creativity.
Damn, it's good. You can get buzzed just from the
fumes coming off this wild thing."
Jessica Winter, Time: "...a gleaming, goofy action-thriller.... To invest oneself emotionally in the central relationship, or the
movie itself, would be akin to investing oneself emotionally in one's car. But when the car looks this good and drives this
fast, why not?"
Christy Lemire, Associated Press: "offers some serious character actors in big, showy supporting performances, which
offers the same sort of appealing, startling contrast as the film's violent streak."
Allright, what movie did everyone else see? Because the over-hyped Drive is a shallow film as hollow as its cardboard
characters. Yes, I said "characters," with an "s." Not simply content to make his nameless lead character — the Driver (Ryan
Gosling), we'll call him (as the press materials do) — a cipher, director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) populates his film
with empty, soulless vessels doubling for actual people. There's the nice-girl-who-got-involved-with-the-wrong-guy, the older-
version-of-our-lead-who-sports-a-symbolically-loaded-disability, the down-on-his-luck-ex-con-who-wants-to-get-out-after-
one-last-job, etc. (If I'm not careful, this whole review
may degenerate into a series of etceteras.) In this
world, style overrides substance, surface trumps
depth, and personalities are so thin that the
existence of the story's players seems to cease
whenever they disappear offscreen.
Drive is a slow moving, short scripted, uneventful
film - market it as artsy and put in some artsy music
and artsy shots to complete the picture. Drive, for
the rest of us, is nothing more than a ridiculously
forgettable movie with some great actors. The film
is painfully slow, painfully cliche and above all
overdramatic in delivery. It never feels real. Made
for the elitist critics, not for me.