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Do It For the Rush!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's a sad life, a mere, non-movie star person lives. No, not because you don't have access to hordes of photographers constantly snapping shots of you, or because you don't make millions of dollars for doing next to nothing, or because the likelihood that someone out there wants to sleep with you stays comfortably where it is at less than zero. No, it's a sad life because, every once in a blue moon, a film comes along that serves as a stark reminder that no matter what you do or how hard you try, you will never be as cool as certain cinematic creations. You can try to be all dashing and roguish, but Han Solo will still beat you into the ground and steal your girlfriend. You can try to be all suave and cool and calculating, but go up against Harry Callahan, and you're toast. Beatrix Kiddo will slice you up into tiny pieces of carpaccio without batting a lash. Chili Palmer will knock you stone dead and still have time to complain about the movie industry. I could go on all day! And now, we have a new member to the pack. You may think you're all kinds of boss behind the wheel of a car, but let Driver get behind that wheel, and he will make you look like a bitch! Such is the method of the central character of Drive, the new whizz-bang, stylish as hell, ridiculously violent, masterpiece from up and coming director Nicolas Winding Refn. Words cannot adequately express how much I loved this movie, because I loved absolutely everything about it! This is a small gem that instantly rockets into my top three of 2011!

Man, I am a sexy beast!

Hollywood stuntman by day, wheelman by night, the unnamed Driver leads a decidedly solitary existence. He is the best at what he does, and what he does is drive. When a chance encounter with his beautiful next door neighbor, Irene, and her son, Benicio, begins to lead to something more, Driver suddenly find himself rearranging his priorities. Put simply, he now has a reason to exist, and takes it upon himself to look after his new lovebird and her kid. So, he naturally agrees to help out her just released from jail husband on a job so he can pay off some guys. Unfortunately, the plan blows up in his face, and Driver is plunged into a non-stop blood bath as he struggles to protect Irene and Benicio from powerful criminals who now want their heads.

Sure, it sounds pretty straight forward, but Drive is anything but. Rather than just show a never ending orgy of violence, the film starts off at a deliberate slow burn, making what violence there is, and there is a ton, all the more shocking. The film starts with a tense and supremely well made car chase that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the proceedings. The characters are developed enough so that we can easily pick sides, but Driver is the focus of the story, and his character is beautiful. Driver is a character defined by contradictions, with a super cool demeanor that is doing a great job of hiding the hard hitting psychopath raging beneath the surface. The story and script build him up wonderfully, and we are with him 100% of the way!

Man, is there anything Ryan Gosling can't do? He's a brilliant actor, he's sexy as hell, and now he's fighting crime in the streets of New York. It's about damn time he got to play role that shows him for the absolute BAMF that he is. He is so goddamn good in this movie, conveying the air of supreme cool that only Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen have ever been to pull off. Couple that with some of Gosling classic, gut wrenching, dramatic acting and a healthy amount of scenes where he is just downright scary, and you have a wonderful stew of stuff for him to wrestle with. And damn, does he ever handle all this juicy goodness like the demigod he is! Gosling has always been one of my favorites, but with this, he rockets into the upper echelon. I can't believe the words are coming out of my mouth right, but JoGo has some serious competition now!

I love the way you hold that Dasani. Do it again!

Carey Mulligan does her usual excellent work as the quiet and timid Irene, effortlessly creating a character that anyone, even a emotionally stunted wheelman, could fall for. Bryan Cranston shows up, bringing spark and wit to his role as Driver's handler/father figure. Christina Hendricks is perfectly adequate in a small, but crucial, cameo. Ron Perlman does his usual Ron Perlman thing as a mobster out for Driver's blood, but if anyone can do Ron Perlman's thing well it's Ron Perlman, so, no complaints.

Easily the biggest surprise of the cast is Albert Brooks, playing one hell a villain as the main gangster who oversees everything. For me, Brooks has always been known for wanting to blow up the Simpsons, and for going to ridiculous lengths to save a deformed clown fish, so seeing him play a ruthless gangster who will stab someone in the eye with a dinner fork is a remarkable change of pace. And man, does he do a convincing job of it!

Gosling steals it from everyone, but that's not to say they are slouches or anything. Far from it. Everyone here is at the best, but Gosling is just soooooo damn good that everyone else is left to wallow in the shadow he casts.

I confess. I haven't seen any other of director Nicolas Winding Refn's films. But, I really need to now, if they are anywhere near the quality of Drive. Refn has created something rarely ever witnessed in the Hollywood scene. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what sort of movie Drive is, because it's all kinds. It's incredibly old fashioned, and exceedingly modern. It's very American, while at the same time very European. It's an action movie. It's a car chase movie. It's romance. It's gangster movie. Whatever Refn did with his mutant of a film, it worked in spades. Bolstered by a slick presentation, and backed by a synth fueled/euro-pop inspired score, Drive has the feel of classic Miami Vice episode mixed with No Country For Old Men, with dashes of Pulp Fiction thrown in for good measure.

Everybody chill! I got this!

And the violence! Holy fuck balls, the violence! Refn is, apparently, known for his incredibly graphic bloodshed, and that quality sure as hell comes shining through in Drive. It takes about an hour for the red matter to start hitting the walls, but once it starts, it never stops. And my god, it's soooo graphic! I've seen people get shot in the face in movies before, but not like that. I've seen people get their heads stomped in movies before, but not like that. I've seen people get their wrists slit in movies before, but especially not like that! Sweet Jesus, I will never look at a straight razor the same way again! Even when there's no blood being spilled, it's still incredibly tense, as when Driver threatens to hammer a bullet into someone's head. And even though, for a movie called Drive, it's light on the car chases, what car chases there are are awesome! The opening scene, which sees Driver evading cops and helicopters is really something, and the short, albeit hectic, chase between a black Mustang and a silver Chevrolet deserves to be right up there with Bullit.

Dude, I don't even know where to go from here! Drive absolutely rocks! This is a masterful, tense, beautiful to look at, violent as hell thriller that more than deserves every ounce of praise it's getting. When action movies are defined by unlikable robots beating up on each other, or lame superheroes fighting a villain of the week, it's so nice to something that tries and succeeds to be better than the flock! Oh, man, the rest of the year is gonna have a hard time topping this one!


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