directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Fans of film have long known that Nicolas Winding Refn has enormous talent as a director. In fact, Refn’s downfall more often than not tends to revolve around his storytelling. His gangster film Pusher was a great debut, and though Fear X bankrupted his film company, it was another promising addition to his resume. Refn got stuck in a rut with Pusher II and III, but his films have grown stronger as his plots have quietly become more and more minimal. Bronson was not much more than a series of scenes hung on a larger than life persona, and in many ways it worked. Valhalla Rising hardly had any plot, and with Drive, Refn has hit his stride in a hypnotically wonderful way. Like Monte Hellman and Walter Hill before him, Refn derives his main character’s name from his essence, and Ryan Gosling is perfect as Driver, the quiet, isolated stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway wheel man in LA. His life finds a direction of sorts when he befriends the lovely Irene (Carey Mulligan is brilliant) and her son. As with all things film, the wrench in the works comes in the form of Irene’s fuck up husband, loosed from the joint indebted to a group of scumbags who want their pound of flesh. It is noteworthy that Drive is first time Refn hasn’t penned the film he directed, the pared down story in this case written by tepid talent Hossein Amini (who has done nothing remarkable). In fact, this script alone isn’t particularly good, but the actors and directing make it phenomenal. The soundtrack is as gorgeous as the cinematography, and whoever the hell’s idea it was to give the film semi sleazy, 80s style, hot pink title credits imposed over a stunning LA nighttime skyline was a friggin genius! Drive is a total package of taught, stripped down filmic storytelling disguised as a genre film, and like the (dare I say it) Two-Lane Blacktops of the world, the film becomes almost mythic in its visceral, cosmic universality. If this film were to be made 25 years ago, Driver would have most definitely been played by Charles Bronson, and Ryan Gosling lives up to that kind of comparison. Believe the hype, people, and strap into the nearest theatre seat for this gem, because it needs to be seen on the big screen.
Note: Ku effing dos to Albert Brooks, who makes me feel all kinds of uncomfortable as ex-producer and general source of fear Bernie Rose. You were scarier than Ron Perlman, Mr. Brooks, and that’s a tremendous feat in itself!