Taking a ride with Drive
I had mixed feelings about Drive. Some sequences in the film are as good as anything I’ve seen this year—particularly the tense opening and a brutal scene that goes down, of all places, in an elevator. Ryan Gosling (otherwise known as “The Goss” around my apartment) has less than 30 lines in this movie but gives an amazing performance. He plays a tougher-than-tough stunt car driver who, by night, is a getaway driver for L.A.’s criminal underworld. His character is almost absurdly cool and totally aware of the fact—it’s as if he has painstakingly fashioned himself after every character that Clint Eastwood, Alain Delon and Steve McQueen have ever played. Taking place outside of Hollywood, the film’s obsession with movie lore is part of its charm—but also its main shortcoming.
Like Quentin Tarantino’s films, Drive is referential to the point of parody. While you don’t necessarily have to catch the references to Michael Mann’s filmography, Jean-Pierre Melville or Taxi Driver, I’d imagine that not knowing these references would make the movie seem incredibly empty; regardless, though, it is empty. Drive is an incredibly violent genre flick disguised as an art house-film, or maybe it’s an art-house film disguised as an incredibly violent genre flick. Either way, there isn’t much substance to this movie beyond its stylistic and genre touches—Drive is all surface. This isn’t to say that it’s not entertaining (it is) or that the performances aren’t good (they’re great, specifically Gosling’s and Albert Brooks’ as a hack movie producer-turned-gangster who serves as the main antagonist). But no one in this film resembles, even slightly, a human being. The romance between Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan’s characters is supposed to be sweet and pure but—through lots of long pauses and supposedly meaningful staring—is unintentionally hilarious. It’s unclear whether or not director Nicolas Winding Refn wants us to laugh at or relate to these characters, or if this is all some hyper-specific commentary on noir cinema.
You should know that the violence in Drive is out-of-control gory, with heads blown up, faces mashed in and dark movie-red blood everywhere. Again, it’s unclear what we’re supposed to make of the violence, which stands in stark contrast to the bizarrely quiet first section of the film. I suppose that is the point—the duality of man, the violence lurking within every person, etc., even if it’s not a particularly interesting point and is made in the most blatantly unsubtle way imaginable. If you go see Drive, you won’t enjoy it for what it has to say because it doesn’t have anything meaningful to say. You’ll enjoy it for the great performances, the deliberately cheesy, 80s-flavored soundtrack and, theoretically, all the film references. It’s worth seeing.