Drive

After my frankly embarrassing September output. I vow to you, imaginary fans, that October will be a much fuller month. Got new films, some odd but hopefully interesting choices and an another entire franchise to review for starters. Hold on to your butts, it’s going to get paragraphic up in this bitch.

Drive (2011)
After causing a bit of a stir at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and picking up the Best Director award for Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive fell off my radar for a bit. Now it’s back dead centre, pinging away like a bad simile alarm would if tasked with analysing this very paragraph.

“If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive.”

It’s very difficult to describe the plot of Drive without making it sound like a bad Jason Statham vehicle (although that’s kind of the point), but I’ll do my best. Ryan Gosling plays a man referred to only as “Driver”,  a stuntman by day who makes extra money on the side by moonlighting as a getaway driver for hire. Driver lives a rather solitary life, with only his mentor and veteran mechanic Shannon (Bryan Cranston) to really confide in. All of this changes when Driver meets neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) and finds them involved in some bad stuff and in need of protection. The film is purposefully playing around with action conventions and it ends up like an arthouse version of something like The Transporter. It works extremely well. Gosling is a fucking revelation as the lead, lending a semi-autistic edge to the tight-lipped hero. I love the fact Bryan Cranston makes an appearance and having not seen the reportedly excellent Breaking Bad, found it a genuine thrill to see Malcolm’s dad, Hal, from Malcolm in the Middle play a scummy but still wholly likeable character. Carey Mulligan gives a really effective turn as Irene, having now got the whole palpable innocence and vulnerability thing down to a weaponised state. The surprise for me was Albert Brooks, normally known for his comedy roles and, more recently, his voice work in animations ranging from The Simpsons to Finding Nemo, playing a real nasty bastard in this. He steals many of the scenes he’s in and is a genuinely charismatic villain. Also Ron Perlman. Just Ron Perlman. Nothing more needs to be said.

From the off, you can tell that both Drive and Refn are children of the 1980’s. From the hot pink Vice City fonted credits to the hero’s naff silver and gold scorpion jacket, Drive wants you to recall some of the dumb but fun films of the decade that style forgot. The first half of the the film is intentionally reminiscent of these cinematic curios and lulls you into a false sense of parody-cushioned security before whipping the rug out from under you and stomping your face in. Something about the synth soundtrack complete with nail-on-the-head lyrics and the burgeoning cheesy, but actually rather touching, relationship between Driver and Irene just makes you completely unprepared for the truly shocking violence contained in the latter part of the film. My snorts of derision at the sun-drenched romantic scenes soon caught in the back of my throat as I winced at some of the surprising and gorier moments. This strange but effective mix is typified in the soon-to-be infamous elevator scene. Crucially, the film doesn’t linger on the horrific stuff. Much like my style of lovemaking, it’s quick and brutal.

It’s a rarity that the lead character is this compelling. After initially coming off as a bit of a douche what with his silly jacket and toothpick in the corner of his mouth, Driver turns out to be a fully fleshed-out sympathetic character. He’s kind-hearted, but also undeniably a bit of a psychopath. He rarely says more than a couple of sentences to people unless he’s talking about cartoons with Benicio or threatening strip-joint owners with a hammer. The strip club scene in particular has stuck with me and not for reasons of boobage. It’s the vacant, seen-it-all-before look the strippers have on their faces whilst all of the interrogation was going on that gets me. Quite chilling.

“My partner is a belligerent asshole with his back up against a wall, and now, so am I.”

I thought Drive was amazing. It’s a punch to the face with a fist made of ice. It’s not an arthouse pastiche of ridiculous action films nor is it a action film made to appeal to the edu-crowd. Drive is its own strange powerful beast and my film of the year (so far).

1 thought on “Drive”

  1. I promised myself that I would watch this after I saw the director on BBC Breakfast. The presenter mentioned the extreme violence and Refn said "violence is a lot like fucking" – on breakfast telly! On the Beeb! What a man. Your brilliant review has now given me real reason to see the film, cheers! 🙂

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