The Good: Opening, Basic plot, Moments of character
The Bad: Predictable plot, Terribly light on character, Acting is not anyone’s best performance.
The Basics: After all the hype, I finally take in Drive and end up horribly disappointed.
Right now, my wife is upset with me and, truth be told, I cannot blame her at all. We sat down for a movie together and watched Drive and she is upset with me. Here’s why: 2011 was a good year for Ryan Gosling. I saw him in Crazy Stupid Love. (reviewed here!) and The Ides Of March (reviewed here!) and liked his work quite a bit. The part of his 2011 trifecta I was missing was Drive and I got psyched about seeing it for two reasons. The first was that what little I had read about it in advance made it very clear that it was not as vacuous or dumb as the previews initially made it seem. All I knew was that the previews made it look like a dumb The Fast And The Furious-type driving film and it was not that. The other reason I was excited was that Drive was a movie I did not know much about. That is a rarity for me these days and so I was very excited to be able to watch a movie that might honestly surprise me.
Unfortunately, not all surprises are good. Drive was a surprise in that it was not what I hoped it would or could be. Unfortunately, it did not live up to any of my hopes or expectations and it made it exceptionally easy to not recommend. When Drive is not boring the life out of the viewer, it is repulsing those still awake with some of the most intense, gross, violent images I’ve seen in film. Yeah, Drive is just an unfortunate mess.
The Driver is a professional, in all of the aspects of his life. He has a keen tactical mind which makes him an ideal getaway car driver for robbers and thugs as he is smartly able to evade the Los Angeles police. Called the Kid by Shannon, the wounded owner of the car shop he works at, Shannon helps The Driver get work as a stunt car driver in movies. Shannon also wants The Driver to race professionally for him and he uses the Driver to get Bernie Rose to financially back a race car, despite Bernie’s business partner Nino not being so keen on the idea.
The Driver’s life is a quiet, solitary one outside the fleeing from the cops, until he notices his neighbor. Irene lives two doors down and has a son. The Driver is attracted to her and when she reveals that her husband is in prison and getting out soon, he continues to show interest. When Standard is released from jail, he is protective of Irene, but soon the mob comes looking for him. The Driver, eager to get Irene and the boy out of the way of any potential harm, agrees to drive Standard on a robbery, unbeknownst to any of them that it is a dangerous set-up.
Drive is, in many ways, an unfortunate movie. What starts out intriguing quickly turns into a droll, desperately tiresome art house flick (and I love artsy movies!) and then degenerates into a gory killfest that is anything but entertaining. In fact, what makes Drive so disappointing on so many levels is that it starts as one thing and then becomes another without so much developing as abruptly turning. It’s like director Nicholas Winding Refn had three moods when he made Drive. He starts the movie with a decent heist wherein the viewer is given clues about the Driver. He is smart, likes round dials and not digital displays and he has a strong survival instinct. Nicholas Winding Refn sets up an engaging, thrilling movie. Then, he spends forty-five minutes (which feels like about three hours long) creating a quiet, ponderous art movie with a tormented protagonist and a deep sense of weight. Then, it’s like he woke up in his directing chair and decided to make a gory action film because without any real transition, the movie turns into a troublingly graphic bloodletting. It’s not developed, it really is like he just got sick of making one type movie and decided to make an entirely different one.
Sadly, Drive is not a great movie. I was excited about Drive and as it developed, I thought it had the potential to be as engaging as Payback (reviewed here!). No such luck; the dialogue is not as witty, the direction is not as exciting or original and the characters are nowhere near as interesting.
The real letdown for me, outside the fact that as the movie turned especially graphic in the gore and violence departments after lulling my wife and I into near catatonic states and knowing that that would severely upset my wife, was that the acting was nothing to write home about. Carey Mulligan, whose only other work I have seen (to the best of my recollection) is Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (reviewed here!) and is dismally bland as Irene made me figure that she has the best publicist in the world that she keeps getting work! Ron Perlman is woefully underused as Nino and Ryan Gosling is absent all of his innate charisma in Drive.
In fact, the best acting in Drive comes from brief supporting roles. Christina Hendricks is virtually unrecognizable as Blanche and she sells the performance by having none of the whimsy she used in her recurring role on Firefly. Oscar Isaac gives a decent, if brief, performance as Standard. I did not like Standard, but the scene where Standard sizes up the Driver is a masterwork of understatement and physical acting for Oscar Isaac. He truly nails it. Arguably, the best performance in the film comes from Bryan Cranston who limps his way through the role of Shannon. Shannon is a likable character and Cranston uses his eyes to evoke so many of the character’s emotions that it’s a treat to see such a professional.
Drive is a bloody mess the rest of the time. Now on DVD, my wife and I didn’t bother checking out any of the bonus features on the disc because, frankly, it was just that unpleasant of a film.
For other works with John Pyper-Ferguson, be sure to visit my reviews of:
X-Men III: The Last Stand
The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr.
“A Fistful Of Datas”
For other movie reviews, please be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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