Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Film Review - DRIVE (2011)

DRIVE tells the tale of a man who is a stunt driver by day and getaway driver by night.  He befriends a pretty neighbor and her son, and they nearly develop a romantic relationship until her husband comes home from jail.  And then all hell breaks loose when the mob comes calling on the husband to pay his debts.

I just plain didn't care for DRIVE.  It's not a terrible movie, but it's just.. meh.  To me, DRIVE is playing on a loop in Purgatory.  More after the break...

What I liked...
The opening 10 minutes were excellent.  The first 10 minutes showed the driver in "getaway mode" as he's pursued by the cops.  It's tense and suspenseful, and it's so simple but filmed extremely well.  It's a car chase where the intensity is in the parts where no one is moving.  And the driver is so cool and collected the entire time.  It was a really excellent scene and start.  And it made me think that the movie would be great.  And then the hot-pink film titles and 80s music start...

This was actually my first exposure to Ryan Gosling... except for his forgettable performance in REMEMBER THE TITANS.  He played the quiet, brooding, anti-hero in the same vein of Eastwood's "man with no name" in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy.  (Wow, I sound like a real critic with that one!)  And, ya know, I thought he was great.  He looked good and captured the proper stoicism and that smoldering, Sean Penn-ian caged-animal quality... He meets a married mother (Carrie Mulligan) and helps her, and their budding romance makes him want to go straight.  Her husband's issues with the mob, and their willingness to put the mother and child in danger is what forces the driver to do what he does.  It's a good character.

Really, the cast was great and played their characters well.  Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman make excellent, menacing villains.  Carrie Mulligan plays the girl with a sweet fragilty and quietness.  Both she and the driver are searching for normalcy, but neither find it made abundantly clear in the head-stomping scene.  That was a great scene.  No joke.  It was their first kiss (although there was a debate among my fellow movie goers as to whether it was their first kiss at all) followed by him stomping in someone's head, and her being mortified.

The plot was okay... I actually got lost and had to have it explained to me after.  Not complex or anything.  Just kinda got confused on people's motivations. 

Stuff I didn't like...
I'm a dialogue man.  I like witty banter and carefully crafted conversations.  This movie could be called "Ryan Gosling Looks Intensely at Nouns."  That's boring.  I get that he was the cool, quiet type... but why is everyone else the cool quiet type?  I like that character-type, but it only works if it has an effect or serves as a contrast to the others involved.  When everyone is playing cool and quiet, it's a movie in which nobody is saying anything.  Don't get me wrong, there were characters that babbled and had good dialogue, but those scenes were few and far between.

The entire budding-romance, love-triangle plot... I got the sexual tension, but I didn't get the attraction beyond "he's pretty/she's pretty."  It was sexual tension because there wasn't anything else.  He looks at her.  She looks at him.  They smile.  Repeat.  It felt unnatural and forced.  Why would she be into him beyond him being easy on the eyes?  Seriously, they barely said words to each other, and when they did, it was banal.  Then again, her husband in the movie is an excon serving time, so maybe she just has terrible tastes?

Why in the crap did Christina Hendricks even get billing.  Spoiler alert... After maybe 10 minutes of screen time, she gets her head blown off with a shotgun.  Is it me, or do you not put Christina Hendricks in a movie if you're not gonna show off her hotness and then shoot her in the face?

DRIVE had these weird 80s music moments that just distracted.  Stylistic choice that didn't work for me.  It felt like forced, hipster cool...

Anyways DRIVE was weird.  It wasn't terrible, but it doesn't deserve the 92% on rotten tomatoes or the 8.6 on imdb.  It sacrifices style for substance, so I'd give it... 6.5 Jessica Simpsons.

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