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
- 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.
- 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