I Just Driiiiiiiiive!

In Drive, the 14th (of 29) Ryan Gosling films due out this year, Mr. Gosling plays—wait for it—a driver! Actually, I like the guy, which is a good thing, since he’s in, like, everything.

In this flick, he plays a guy with three jobs: Mechanic, stunt driver for the movies, and wheel man. The story begins when he gets involved with his cute neighbor Irene (the adorable Carey Mulligan) and her cute son.

When I say “involved,” I mean sort of minimally involved. They pass in the hallway. He helps her with her car. He smiles at her kid. It’s a testament to Gosling’s acting that his emotionless, possibly sociopathic, affect is humanized so easily with a few reticent smiles. You do end up liking the guy, especially when Mulligan’s jailbird husband Standard (Oscar Isaac, of the recent Robin Hood) comes back.

As it turns out, Standard is a pretty good guy. And Gosling’s (nameless) character wins us over by helping him out, despite his obvious attraction to Irene. But there’s something not quite, let’s say, well-adjusted about him.

I don’t want to spoil the story, but let me warn you: This movie turns suddenly and shockingly violent about at the mid-point. You might think you’re going to see a fun caper flick, but no: This movie decides that not only does it need violence, it can’t be the fun, semi-campy violence of an action flick. It needs graphic violence and extreme brutality.

I’m not knocking this, I’m just pointing it out for those who don’t like that sort of thing.

The Boy and I liked it, though The Boy felt that the violence represented a somewhat unsuccessful tonal shift, and that the movie had a couple more shifts toward the end that didn’t work. That didn’t bug me, particularly, because this movie was basically a homage to the ‘80s, where it was common to put some grittily “realistic” aspect into your heretofore semi-dopey genre flick.

Call it “Miami Vice Syndrome”. Or “Michael Mann Syndrome” if you’re film-literate.

The movie imitates (and improves in a lot of ways) on the ’80s crime drama, which a Moog-y synth pop track, slow-mo moments, inappropriately beautiful music over violence, and even hot pink opening credits! (The Flower noticed the hot pink “Drive” written on the movie poster and asked why it was pink. ’80s, baby!)

There is a lot of fun stuff in this movie: Bryan Cranston plays Gosling’s loser boss who’s trying to get money so Gosling can do stock car racing. Albert Brooks as the mob-ish boss he’s trying to get the money from. And Ron Perlman as his brutish Jewish mob-ish friend (that’s a lot of –ish, but how these guys are syndicated isn’t really explained). It’s nice to see Perlman not only get to play without heavy makeup (Hellboy, “Beauty and the Beast”, Quest for Fire) but also play a Jew!

Also, if you’re a native, the movie is full of street and overhead shots of the City of Angels, which is kind of neat. Though at one point, Irene takes her beater from Echo Park to Cranston and Gosling’s garage in Reseda, which strikes me as as improbable as Gosling living in Echo Park and commuting to Reseda. But these are of course just fun details.

Talented crew. Confident direction. Artsy, bordering dangerously close to pretentious. The ending doesn’t really make sense, and is a little murky to the actual details.

The Boy and I approved. I more than he, as he didn’t really get the ’80s homage and hasn’t driven the streets as much.

I would reservedly recommend for crime drama fans, for ’80s crime drama fans especially, but not for the squeamish.

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