Friday, 24 February 2012

Drive - 2011 directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (spoilery)

'Be My Second At Thunder Road' (Kenickie)

Yes move over John Carpenter, whatever Blade Runner soundtrack. I can’t be the only person in the world that was praying for just one Kenickie or Zuko quote from the mysterious and nameless, silver jacketed ‘Driver’ (Ryan Gosling). 

How many shots in this seriously noir film highlighted the Scorpion on his back (the name and symbol used by the rival gang of the T-birds of course, led by Cratorface), they even drove up Thunder Road and the scary comic strip face man (John Perlman) referenced a ‘pussymobile’ partially mirroring the motor mechanic workshop 'pussy wagon' build up to that lightning song, albeit a little more crudely than in the musical hit Grease. If you look closely at this film, it is an intricate web of retrospective, half Tarantino-esque bloodied headshots all leading back to John Travolta or Jeff Conaway. Stay with me on this. I think Nicolas Winding Refn was a fan. This really isn’t sarcasm; I want to know…chewing on a matchstick with a signature jacket protagonist? Yes maybe a touch Clint Eastwood too.

I did enjoy this film but my main criticism was that it was too self-consciously cool in places, too self-consciously retro and consequently having flicked through a few reviews, too self-consciously reviewed too which I kind of find off putting. It is quite simply a brooding hero that drives, with a great synth soundtrack, a love interest; nothing deep or meaningful, it touches briefly on the intricacies of mob mentality, family loyalty and abuse especially when Nino cries of his bullying family and fear of them as it all descends into ‘Reservoir Dogs’ stylistic blood shed. This film, thankfully, wasn’t heavy handed on the Hollywood front though and does stand out in its thrilling genre with an edgier Scandinavian starkness, particularly with a lack of any humour and sparse dialogue which could spiral it into ‘cult’ territory.

Carey Mulligan’s talents were not stretched in this one as Irene; quite sweet, good American accent, I won’t go as far as compare her to Olivia Newton John; she’s had better roles to be fair. This was never a film that would have a strong role in it for a woman anyway, briefly supported by Christina Hendricks' Blanche, who basically carried a bag and had her head blown off (thankfully missing her ample chest, imagine the mess that would have made). 

Could a matriarch have been put in to bang a few badly behaved heads together? No, not really as it would have made it more mainstream ‘gangster’ and notably, there was no sex at all either, no rescue of a super glamorous ‘moll’, more a quiet anti climax as you learn ‘the girl is safe’ and he, guess what, drives off. More anti-action than action movie.

There was a brief foray into some sort of gentleman’s club which was one of the best clips of suspenseful violence for me, holding a bullet between a man’s eyes, hammer in hand, surrounded by stock still topless women with glazed expressions, an interesting image and far cry from the usual strip joint staged, often with a snake or some titillation which would normally have ended in more screaming and more bouncing body parts. 

You can’t really ignore the violence in this one, the lift scene, let’s just say, a little more than a ruckus, again was interesting, shot a touch mutely with their first impassioned kiss after at least a hundred lingering pauses of resistance, ended with some foot on squelching head action. The contrast of the kiss and the brutality was impinging and affective at revealing the polar sides of this silent ‘Driver’. The romantic with a fatal flaw, it would take forever to discuss whether this is really a male or female fantasy.

The ending? Well in my mind, he saves the girl and drives off, a sort of happily but unhappily anti- fairytale ever after ending. I liked that. It could look rather ambiguous though and if you jump here, talk of whether it was a metaphorical death of the 'Driver' has been mentioned. However, this has been cleared up by the director himself with this;

"Well all my films always have open endings. All of them. Because I believe art is always best when…you talk about it and think about it, so forth. Maybe once in awhile I’ve gone too far, but I always believe in finding the right balance. And in ‘Drive’ he lives on for more and new adventures."

Now on DVD so go get it if you’re not too squeamish, it’s the sort of excessive violence that after the first shock, desensitises as you numbly watch more blood splatter. There’s great use of music especially if your thing is retro electronic beep.  Admittedly, the synopsis to this film made me think The Fall Guy does Grand Theft Auto, rest assured it’s better than that.  My final point, very importantly, Ryan Gosling has the look of a young Nicholas Lyndhurst in many shots, try not to let this distract you.

Now listen to a tune from the most talked about soundtrack for a while, well maybe in the circles I keep anyway…

Jump here for the trailer although bear in mind, I don't think it does the film justice.

*With thanks to my brother who has the propensity to make me watch a film I wouldn't shake a very long stick at normally... I enjoyed it. x *

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