Country: United States
Genre: Action/ Drama
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE
Two thirds of the way into Drive, it seems like we’re witnessing the birth of an instant classic.
The script by Hossein Amini (based on the novel by James Sallis) is spare almost to the point of being monosyllabic, but manages a fair amount of emotional complexity in spite of it. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s storytelling is almost entirely visual.
For example, in the opening sequence, The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is driving a getaway car after a heist. Usually, these sequences are pure testosterone, but what director Refn and writer Amini accomplish is much more impressive. The sequence is like a game of chess, played with nerves of steel. We are convinced of The Driver’s professionalism within five minutes.
Then the filmmakers introduce us to The Driver’s next door neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her jailbird husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac). Again, the relationships between these three are developed with a breathtaking economy and tact. In these scenes, we’ve been introduced to another side of The Driver. He can be gentle and kind. But when he and Standard are double crossed by Nino, Refn shows in several brutally violent scenes that The Driver is not someone you want to mess with.
So far, so great. The plotting and characterizations are admirably efficient and clever. The film oozes style, but in a way that doesn’t call attention to itself, but rather just increases the effectiveness of the drama. The actors all do terrific work. I’d especially like to call attention to Albert Brooks’ expert turn as a crime lord, who manages to be avuncular and menacing at the same time.
And then the filmmakers blow it, oddly enough, through a lack of discipline, which they demonstrated in spades for the first half of the film.
The film, which up to now has had a daringly deliberate pace, actually slows down, just when it should be revving up into the finish. After introducing some visceral and graphic violence, director Refn goes in the exact opposite direction, offing the villains in increasingly and ostentatiously arty ways, once in a long shot and another time, filming the shadows of the actors. It’s like director Refn is both showing off his mastery and flipping the bird at the viewers by denying them the catharsis they justifiably expect.
Writer Hossein Amini screws up, too. The engine of the plot is a heist of a pawn shop, masterminded by Nino (Ron Perlman), in which the take turns out to be a million dollars. It should be obvious to someone as sharp as The Driver that Nino knocked off an organized crime money drop. There’s no way that Nino would let on who was involved, because if the heist were traced back to him, he’d end up on the business end of a meat hook. The money isn’t marked, either. Finally, no witnesses saw The Driver during the heist. The money could never be traced back to him, and yet he ends up leaving it in a parking lot. Amini has taken great pains to show how intelligent The Driver is, and then he unaccountably becomes stupid in the third act.
Yet, with all its flaws, the first half of the movie is so excellent, I’d still have to give The Driver a recommendation.