Sunday, 29 January 2012
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks
By Alan Bacchus
There should be a caveat at the beginning of this film, or maybe on the poster or the trailer, that says, "This is NOT a car chase movie." Instead, it’s an oddball mix of neo-noir plotting and retro pop '80s aesthetic forming a bizarre but unique and invigorating genre film.
I suspect this project started with a rather rudimentary crime script featuring a stunt car driver who moonlights as a getaway man in Los Angeles and becomes a protector of sorts to his motherly but attractive neighbour and her young child. But under the stylized lensing of hip Danish director, Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson, The Pusher Trilogy), it becomes a bold statement much greater than what was on the page.
The opening sequence is thrilling. It's a quiet but suspenseful heist, which introduces us to the unnamed getaway driver (Gosling), who goes about his job with exacting precision and professionalism. After that we get a retro-style credit sequence featuring hot pink script-like font (Forte-like for font nerds), like something fresh out of Miami Vice, To Live and Die in LA or Something Wild. This oddball duality colours the entire film.
After introducing the neighbour, the driver’s mentor and a gang of nefarious criminals that surrounds them, the criminal plotting gets ratcheted up when the neighbour’s husband, freshly released from prison, moves back in. The driver, who now sees himself as protector for the young gal’s son, teams up with the husband to complete ‘one last job’ in order to repay an outstanding debt. Of course, things don’t go as planned and the driver finds himself on the run and targeted for death.
Refn shifts us between these familiar noir story beats and a self-consciously syrupy love story punctuated by synthesized retro-cheese love ballads. The mix of blood curdling violence and this overly sweet tenderness generates the same feelings as David Lynch’s emotional extremes in Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, and even the Hitchcockian thrillers of Brian De Palma.
Drive aspires to achieve the same results by turning familiar melodrama into something unfamiliar and fresh. These aesthetic choices might turn off a lot of viewers, especially those expecting a stone cold Walter Hill, but for a fan of stylish experimentation Drive burns some serious rubber.
And once again, thank you Cliff Martinez for another delicious electronic score, just like his work on Contagion, and for helping to subvert all those forgettable copycat music scores heard in most other action films. Regretfully, the Academy not only snubbed Gosling and Refn, but even worse, they ignored Cliff Martinez's work in a category that, considering John Williams' two nominations this year, is lacking in credibility.
Drive is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Alliance Films in Canada