Festival darling Refn, born in Denmark, but raised in New York City has been on the periphery of the Hollywood success for years now gaining renown his for his biopic, Bronson chronicling the life of the deranged career-prisoner Charles Bronson (Starring Tom Hardy), his gritty look at the European drug trade in his Pusher trilogy and his violent, yet atmospheric film following the doomed journey home of a Norse warrior. In past films, I’ve noticed Refn likes to put the audience inside his characters with protracted, silent shots and fluid camera movements, then once the viewer has fully developed a sense of thoughtful tranquility, he slams you with the unflinching and brutal savagery of the outside world. Drive is no different.
In regard to plot, Drive is perhaps one of his more straightforward movies Refn has done. Based on the James Sallis book, of the same name, Drive chronicles the story of a nameless “driver,” Ryan Gosling, who works as a mechanic, a stunt man, a get-away driver, all while being groomed as Nascar driver and courting the lovely next door neighbor, played by Carey Mulligan. It sounds like a lot to squeeze into this 100 minute movie, and it is, but it never felt convoluted. Most of the various threads end up connecting at some point making the whole thing manageable and very satisfying, but simply put: Drive is about a heist that goes wrong and the bloody, tragic aftermath. In this it succeeds brilliantly. The movie is taught, exciting, full of shocking twists but with it’s pacing and deep shadows contrasted with rich, silky colors and the heady soundtrack it falls squarely in the “neo-noir” film category. Almost like a slow and measured, introspective Guy Ritchie film, the early ones. Ron Pearlman and Albert Brooks play LA mafia transplants who talk a big game, but are still completely beholden to and desperately afraid of their East Coast counterparts. They are both great, but I especially love Brooks with that smile and that voice, one moment warm and soothing and the next utterly terrifying. Bryan Cranston stands out as a blue collar garage owner, ex-stuntman, and fence/manager for the “driver” setting him up with his nefarious dealings as well as his legitimate work in the garage and doing stunts. Gosling himself, has very little actual dialogue in this film, but his performance is solid and interesting when it would be so easy to be bland. Instead Gosling serves the story with all the stoicism of Paul Newman, the charm of Humprhey Bogart and the courage Robert Mitchum.
This weekend will determine if the extremely talented cast and the thrilling trailer is enough to bring respectable numbers to the theaters in September. It certainly seems like Refn’s star is on the rise and it no doubt will be if he continues to put out thoughtful and exciting films like this fall’s Drive.
Drive opens September 16th.
Sam Rhodes is the Creative Director of Fanboy Comics, an independent comic book publishing company based in Los Angeles, CA. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Sam and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at FanboyComics.net or sign up for the e-newsletter, The Fanboy Scoop, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.