Monday, April 30, 2012


Title: Drive
Studio: Bold Films (2011)

Michael and I did a little something different for our joint post series last April and we're serving up a twist again this April. (side note re April: It's also our month for meeting up in person and having awesome good times at the LA Times Festival of Books... but more on that later.) For anyone new to this series, this is where we choose a book/movie pairing and I say a few words on the book and Michael says a few words on the movie. But as you'll quickly notice, this month Michael has the book and I'm taking the movie.

I don't review films often and I had lots of jumbled/random thoughts regarding the film so I'm going to do what I do whenever I can't seem to get myself organized for a review: borrow the format of that estimable Canadian blogger, Apprentice Writer. (I shamelessly rip this format off when needs must and AW is so kind as to not mind at all... I think;)

Premise: "A mysterious Hollywood stuntman, mechanic and getaway driver lands himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbour"
(you might recognize that as more shameless stealing - this time from IMDb)

Poster: Evokes atmosphere and tone of the film to perfection. Big thumbs up.

Title: Truth in advertising

What Works:
- The chase scenes. I'm pretty partial to car chases anyway but when they are done well it's such a treat and holy damn were they done well.
- Ryan Gosling. So many jokes were made about his lack of dialogue that I was actually pretty surprised he had as many lines as he did. I was expecting a lot of Acting and Making Serious Faces, etc due to all the jokes but it wasn't like that at all. He played a quiet character and he was quiet. It's nice to see understatement allowed to work its magic.
- Bryan Cranston. I can't figure out why I heard so much about Albert Brooks after this movie released but nothing about Cranston. He blew me away! I thought he was the best part of the movie (excepting the car chases) and he nailed that part. I mean, he fucking nailed it! Try to picture other folks acting this sort of role and you'll find that they either can't be truly pathetic and submissive (there's always that angry glare directed at someone's back or a posture that says they still have some fight in them) or that they are so pathetic and submissive that you hate them or laugh at them. Cranston pulled off the nearly impossible: he played a sad, pathetic loser and instead of despising him he made the audience want to cry for him. I rarely root for criminals even when they are the protag, but I wanted his racing scheme to work out so badly that the hardest thing in the movie for me to bear was his inevitable storyline.
- The direction of the violence. This is a graphically violent movie and I've rarely seen graphic violence done so well. This was not a movie that relied on physical traits (think bad teeth) or atmospheric conditions (think ominous music and dingy neighborhoods) to help the audience know when Bad Stuff was about to happen. This was a movie where a clean-cut, handsome guy with a climber's physique could stomp someone's head to a bloody pulp on a bright, sunshiney day. My compliments of the violence aside, you have been warned, the story follows violent people and the camera is not shy.

What Doesn't:
- Ironically, and excepting what I listed above, the direction. I am a firm believer that if you are not directing a stylistic movie (think Moulin Rouge, Kill Bill, From Dusk 'Til Dawn, etc) then I shouldn't notice the directing. The only time I didn't notice the directing was in the car chases and during a violent scene. That is where the director really got it right. Otherwise, I felt like he never wanted me to forget that he was Directing.
- Irene. What a toothless role. Carey Mulligan deserves better.
- Albert Brooks. I'm listing this specifically because I want it to annoy someone so s/he will explain to me exactly what was so great about him in this role. I thought he did a fine job but I didn't think the role presented much of a challenge. I'm ready to be convinced so Brooks backers please share!
- The Driver's motivation. Was it really just that he fell in love with a pretty girl? And why? We learn almost nothing about her, so is the sum total of her appeal her looks and beautiful smile? Was it the kid? My theory on this is spoilerish so highlight if interested: The ending scene and song made me think his other part-time job is helping people out when he takes a fancy to them. During the movie I was thinking his helping of Irene was a one-shot deal and that didn't make a lot of sense to me. But then that last scene made me think that perhaps this is not his first time acting the Semi-Good Samaritan. This is another one that I hope others will share their insight on.

Kick-ass car chases, realistic violence, and solid acting make this a film worth watching even if it's not exactly your cup of tea. A few distracting mis-steps keep me from giving it an unqualified recommendation but I still think it's a movie that will send a lot of people home happy.

Don't forget to check out the book review! And here's my favorite quote to enjoy on your way out:

I don't have wheels [slight pause] on my car.

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Click here for an index of the joint post series


  1. hey! i'm estimable! who knew? and how flattering if the breakdown that works for me works for others also.

    i'm so conflicted about seeing this film. on the one hand: ryan gosling (yay!) on the other: graphic violence in the sunshine (Eep?) Though I must admit that despite not being a car-girl, I hear you on cool chases. Some that impressed even me were in 'Ronin', not least because there was a girl driver for one amazing sequence. Far too few girl stunt drivers out there.

    I feel like this sounds like 'The Transporter' which was like a Jackie Chan movie: the story a ridonkulous excuse to let Jason Statham break speed limits and hit people and take off his shirt.

  2. Wonderful, and exactly look, at this film, Rachel. I love it (and yes, this review format is worth stealing ;-)). This turned out to be one of my favorite films in 2011. Even watching it again for the first time (since mid-September of 2011 on its theatrical release) on Blu-ray just last weekend, it retained all of its power to mesmerize me.

    I have to say I'm glad you hadn't seen it prior till you reviewed it here. Your perspective on it is very refreshing. A couple of thoughts:
    • so glad someone brought up how frickin' great Bryan Cranston was in this! This character seemed to be an amalgam of a pair of father figures from the book (we can discuss this over at my book review when you get a chance to read it). But, Cranston really made you care for him beyond those in the film.
    • Carey may deserve better than Irene, but she's probably more critical in the film than she is in the novel (where she is tad more tragic, but that's just my opinion). Here, still very much the catalyst for the 'Driver' with no name. That scene in the elevator, the one that goes from zero-to romantic-to "did I just see what I thought I saw?" works well because of Mulligan's initial reaction to finding out about his involvement with the dead Standard, her sweetness afterwards, and then out-and-out shock has such contrast. I think that sequence works, in tandem with Gosling, because of her and her character
    • I guess I'm a Albert Brooks defender cause I didn't think he had this in him ;-). Yes, he's playing against type, but I'm drawn to those kinds of role for some, and he did come off with an aura of danger. It's not easy to pull that off -- see Bill Murray in 'Mad Dog and Glory', if you don't believe me (there, Bill didn't pull that trick off on that film just because he went against type).
    • I like Refn's direction in this. One reason I think the violence works is because of him. Check out some of previous work... the man has a way with violence.
    • and yes, there is that as a motivation (regarding your spoiler) -- see the Criminal Element piece that compares 'Drive' to the western classic 'Shane'.

    Great job on this, Rachel. You should do more of these... really. I'm so very glad we did this role switch. It was a lot of fun. Anyway, back to our usual way of doing things for next month. I wonder what next April will bring? Hmm...

  3. P.s., I forgot to add that 'Drive's soundtrack, put together by Cliff Martinez, mashed together so damn well with the film. I bought the soundtrack within a week of catching this in the theater and it seems like I'll play some or all of it at least monthly since. It caught and met the vibe of the film so well, IMO.

  4. Hey Maya - doubtlessly estimable! :)

    I also liked Ronin. Great, great car chases!!!!

    I can see your doubts on this one but one doubt you should not have is that it's like "The Transporter." This movie is nothing like "The Transporter." Not even close. Don't worry even a bit on that one.

    However, "The Transporter" will always have a special place in my heart. One - it's a source of endless jokes. Two - it's the movie that sealed the deal, so to speak, for my hubby and me to get together in the first place. We saw it with friends and I thought to myself, "If he likes this movie there is no way we can go out." His exclamation of disgust in one particular scene was music to my ears. We've lovingly watched and ridiculed it since.

  5. Michael - I remember you telling me how much you liked this movie so I was doubly nervous in doing a review (just another reason to steal a format that helps me organize my thoughts:). It was not one of my favorites but certainly one of the better movies available in 2011 and I have no trouble seeing how it can be a favorite for someone.

    I love the comment on my refreshing perspective. hee. I feel like I never do anything but fresh because I rarely see/read anything with historical perspective. It's one of the reasons I like our pairing: I am so much in the moment and you are so excellent at observing context.

    Yay, Cranston! Glad to know I'm not the only one who thought he rocked.

    My gosh, if Irene was even less of a character in the book I will need to prepare myself before reading. I thought she was pretty useless in the film. And agreed about that elevator scene. Just another example of how great she is as an actress. Also, that scene was just plain awesome. Well conceived and well acted.

    Just off to check Albert Brooks' IMDb page... I guess I'm not familiar enough with him to have thought he was only good for one type of part. In fact, the only other memory I have of him is super vague (can't even think of the movie with the titles in front of me) but he played a smarmy guy much like this one. Maybe I'm confusing him with someone else. Anyway, if this was his chance to break out of a mold then I'm happy for him. Just because I'm unappreciative doesn't mean casting directors in the future will be. :)

    How did you think Refn did outside of the violence? That and the car chases are the only things I thought he did well. The rest of it was very distracting to me.

    I dug the soundtrack as well and can imagine it gets lots of play time!

    Thanks for suggesting the switch. It was fun for me to do this! And look for another movie review later tonight... :)

  6. p.s. (my turn)
    just popped over to that link you included and had to laugh at the comparison because i don't like westerns. and i feel like the comparison was a perfect break down of why i don't like westerns. that is wild! perhaps it is those similarities that keep me from really delving into DRIVE.