By: Martin Tucker
“Drive” is a neo-noir heist drama adapted from the James Sallis novel of the same name about an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a skilled getaway driver. “Drive” was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish writer/director known for the “Pusher” series and the Charles Bronson, the convict, biopic, Bronson, starring Tom Hardy. The adapted script was penned by Iranian screenwriter Hossein Amini and stars the versatile Ryan Gosling in the lead role clearly influenced by Steven McQueen in “Bullitt.”
Gosling’s performance as the driver is very minimalistic and restrained. He is a man with no name and a man of few words choosing only to speak when absolutely necessary. He travels the streets of Los Angeles and the deserts of Arizona in a Scorpion race jacket as an existential anti-hero looking to save those who need him, whether they be Carey Mulligan’s character who is single mother Irene, or Bryan Cranston’s character who is a lame automotive wizard named Shannon.
Unlike the driver, the supporting cast are all dependent on others with clear desires that sadly come in conflict with each other. Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks star as two Jewish gangsters with a shaky but ultimately loyal partnership. Surprisingly, Brooks who is known as a comedy writer/director/actor and a “Simpsons” voice actor, plays a very serious, but likable, role as a truly violent man who would much rather avoid gangster practices and killings, but at the end of the day doesn’t shy away from it. Mulligan’s character, Irene, is a single mother who lives with the decisions of her past mainly through her son Benicio. Cranston’s character, Shannon, carries much of the comedic weight of the film as “the driver’s” mentor and supporter in both legal and illegal businesses. Oscar Isaac is also notable as the character Standard, a tragic figure trying to break away from his previous prison lifestyle.
The music style is an 80’s feel, almost reminiscent of “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” which certainly would fit the more violent aspects of the film. Although the driver isn’t quite Tommy Vercetti. What makes “Drive” so great isn’t just the neo-noir stylistic violence, its appreciation of the possibility of a car chase, or its memorable performances by most of the cast; it’s the spirit of collaboration. Four months before production, Ryan Gosling and Refn invited the actors and actresses as well as other collaborators to stay at his house, watch their favorite films, work on the script, and rehearse until they were practically a family knowing each other as people just as much as they know their characters.
I haven’t seen “Contagion,” but “Drive” seems to be by far the best movie out right now. Don’t judge it by the trailer; this movie was made with adoration for writing, acting, and directing. Refn surely didn’t win Best Director at Cannes for nothing. It feels to me that along with “Scott Pilgrim,” a new wave of films was made especially for us late 80’s and early 90’s babies who grew up playing Vice City with the volume down so our parents couldn’t hear the curse words, all night until we fell asleep. “Drive” is highly recommended by me and it deserves as much support as it can get so Hollywood studios will approve more movies like this.
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