Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on September 16, 2011
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by Hossein Amini, from the novel by James Sallis
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Kaden Leos, James Biberi, Jeff Wolfe, Joey Bucaro, Russ Tamblyn
I really get a kick out of neo-noir films that get it right, and I must admit, I went into this one with very little hope of my expectations being fulfilled; I was anticipating something typical of current-day films of this genre, with flashy theatrics, over-scripted and oh-so-hip dialogue, and an annoying abundance of hand-held camerawork. Instead, I was treated to a suspenseful crime thriller that was stuffed to the gills with a film noir mentality, and which thoroughly surprised me with its simple but effective style.
Ryan Gosling plays a nameless Hollywood stunt driver who, during his spare time, hires out as a getaway driver on low-end robberies and heists; after becoming acquainted with neighbor Carey Mulligan and her young son, he involves himself with her ex-jailbird husband, to keep her safe from the crooks he’s become indebted to. And in typical noir fashion, it all spirals downward from there. I loved the fact that Drive was not only similar to the structure of classic noir films, but to the crime novels of Elmore Leonard, whose stories are stocked with good guys with shady pasts and bad guys who are just plain bad.
And like noir, the ending here was not necessarily a positive one, and the explosive moments of violence were both basic and brutal; there wasn’t one person you’d want to turn your back on, or even associate with. Both Gosling (who I’ve never been a fan of) and Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (who I’d never heard of) really surprised and impressed me with their contributions: Gosling did well portraying the quiet, almost introverted—up to a point—chump hero who was sucked into a situation he may or may not have had a grip on, and Refn made it all a visual treat with his wonderfully composed shots and retro feel to the many Los Angeles exteriors.
If there’s fault to be found anywhere, I’d say it was with Hossein Amini’s screenplay, which was quite good, but also might’ve been a bit too surface-level for what probably deserved a more multi-layered narrative. Otherwise, an excellent representation of the neo-noir style and an entertaining ride from beginning to end, one that earned bonus points for its camerawork and cinematography, its haunting electronic score, and its welcome lack of pretentiousness. (8/10)