The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Drive | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Drive

Directed by: Nicholas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman
An actor named Ryan plays an introverted Los Angeles getaway driver who finds himself victim of a doublecross. I'm talking about the excellent Walter Hill 1978 movie "The Driver" right? Nope, this is the at times excellent Nicholas Winding Refn 2011 movie "Drive". There are a lot of similarities, especially in the fantastic opening scene, but where the '78 movie opened with a bang in it's high speed chase, the '11 model gets into gear with a low engine hum.
When I was a kid I was a huge James Bond fan and my favourite scenes were always the first ten minutes where you'd get a big action set-piece followed by a great credit sequence. These openings would always hook me even though what followed for the next two hours usually failed to live up to them. Sadly the same is true here, we get the best opening scene for many a year and one of the coolest credit sequences, but the movie just can't follow through to the same high standard.
The credit sequence is a dead art and has been swiftly disappearing altogether over the last decade, it's not unusual now to not even be presented with the movie's title onscreen. Have attention spans really become so short that you can't put aside a couple of minutes at the start of a movie to acknowledge it's makers?
This is definitely the year's most schizophrenic film, for roughly the first fifty minutes I was thinking this was the movie of the year, for the last forty I was wondering if it could possibly be more annoying. The first half is amazing, containing so many elements that make for great cinema. The cinematography is beautiful, recalling the early (and best) movies of Michael Mann. The editing is classy, no quick cuts here. Like all great eighties existential crime movies it has an electronic score, a glacially cool counterpoint to the warmth of the visuals. Best of all it's told with a minimal amount of dialogue. Unfortunately verbosity and violence pollute the second half. Characters start to mouth off like they're in an old Steven Seagal flick and the violence is so over the top it completely takes you out of the moment. It's akin to enjoying a nice warm shower only for someone else in the house to turn on a tap and suddenly freeze your ass.
The schizophrenia applies to the casting also, Gosling and Brooks perfectly cast, Mulligan and Perlman not so. Brooks is the real standout, all traces of his comic past eroded as he exudes pure menace in the role of a film producer turned mobster. Mulligan does her best but is just completely wrong for her part, originally meant for a Latino actress. Yes in the golden age of crime movies these characters were always played by blond ingenues but back then every actress was white. If the civil rights movement had begun a few decades earlier there would have been a lot more noir in film noir. As for Perlman, aaarrrggghhhh!!! This guy is a fucking terrible actor and ruins every scene he's in here. His character is pointless too, it seems he was only written in for a scene of clunky exposition that signals the movies spiral into crassness.
Even the brilliant use of music goes out the window in the films second half. One thing that really gets my goat is when a piece of music from a movie gets used in another movie. Remember how in the nineties every song from the soundtrack of "Reservoir Dogs" started turning up in other movies? Not that Tarantino can complain as he's become the worst proponent of this trend. Refn commits that crime here, scoring a set-piece with the theme from "Goodbye Uncle Tom". Would a film-maker choose to score a scene with the "Star Wars" or "Indiana Jones" themes? Of course not (well except Godfrey Ho hehe), because everyone has the images associated with those scores imprinted in their minds. But directors have no problem stealing from the soundtracks of seventies exploitation movies, knowing that they'll sound fresh to the ears of the average cinemagoer. It's a cheap trick and one that instantly makes me lose respect for a film-maker.
Despite all my negativity this is still one of the best movies of the year and Refn probably deserved his award at Cannes. Substitute him with someone like Rob Cohen and this would be a serious piece of shit.
So do I recommend it? Yes but be warned. Like dating someone beautiful but vapid you'll enjoy the initial ride but grow to realise it's a purely superficial relationship.