Saturday, October 1, 2011


Drive is the best film I had seen in theaters in 2011. With limited funds, I have to choose and pick the movies I'd like to watch at the cinema. The first thing on my criteria is genre, which doesn't really narrow things down that much. Then, I tend to follow certain film makers (producers, directors, etc...). After that, I'd look at who the writers are and finally the actors. I love certain actors but good actors tend to choose bad movies. So, in this economy, I have to be frugal. Not every choice is a winner (Green Lantern) but, I have to learn to move on or, rag on them on this blog. When I first watched the Drive "Getaway" clip, I thought it looked really good and possessed a lot of potential but wasn't convinced enough to watch the movie (it's $10 - $15 for a ticket!). The clip was very suspenseful with some pretty good direction. I had no idea who the director was or who's in the movie. I recognized Ryan Gosling as the "getaway" Driver and I'd only heard of him from the Notebook. So, I filed the movie under "rental." It wasn't until the release of the full trailer that I found out more about Drive. It stars Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, not to mention Ryan Gosling. I'd seen all of the other actors' previous works and like them a lot. Then at the end of the trailer, Nicolas Winding Refn's name fades in. Nicolas Winding Refn!

Alright, you might not have heard of him and wondering why I was so excited. He's not too well known yet. He wrote and directed a Danish crime trilogy called Pusher. The trilogy made a ton of money in Europe with a lot of acclaim. At times, it's compared to The Godfather movies. It's a dangerous thing being compared to a classic like that. That type of hype could make or break this talented director from Denmark. From the looks of it, Refn getting the offer to direct Drive, I'd like to think that the hype made him.

When plans were made for Drive in 2008, the movie was originally intended for Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Descent) to be at the director's helm and Hugh Jackman to play the role of the Driver. In 2010, both of them were no longer attached to the project. Then, Ryan Gosling signed on to play the Driver and was given the chance to choose a director. He chose Nicolas Winding Refn because he (Gosling) is a fan of Refn's work. Still, knowing the director being Nicolas Winding Refn wasn't enough for me to get off my butt and go to the theaters. Despite liking Refn's previous works, the Pusher trilogy and Bronson, I was still iffy about going to watch Drive. I was feeling extra cheap. It wasn't until my brother highly recommended... almost demanded me to watch Drive on the big screen that I finally jumped off that fence. He was right. I am so glad that I invested $11 on this movie. The direction, cinematography, acting, action, score... was excellent. The screenplay was simple, nothing too intricate. A good story/movie doesn't necessarily need to be complicated. Before I go on further about Drive, I highly recommend watching this in the theater (this is not a late movie review, Drive is currently playing in the theaters). It'll still be a good movie to watch at home but, you won't get the same experience as certain movies in the past had shown us, that it's worth investing time and money to sit in front of a big screen with an audience. There is more to this review after the "JUMP!" link below. If you don't want to read the full (lengthy) review that's fine. So, I'm breaking format and embedding the trailer and my rating right here at the front end and, you can always do a CTRL+F after the jump for keywords. Before I meet you on the other side, I like to say: Drive is pretty damn good!


(Drive has some geek creds in the casting: Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Christina Hendricks (Firefly), Carey Mulligan (Doctor Who: Blink), and Bryan Cranston has a geek cred too, more on him after the "JUMP!")

Bryan Cranston, you may remember in such roles as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, Tim Whatley in Seinfeld and Walter White in Breaking Bad. He gets these unassuming roles with a suppressed badass personality but, he did play a role that he was pretty much a full on badass. For the Anime enthusiasts, did you know that Bryan Cranston was the voice of the reckless pilot, Isamu Dyson in Macross Plus? Macross Plus was a masterpiece of an Anime and it's also one of those rare ported animations that the English dub is just as good or might even be better than the original voice acting. Recently, Bryan Cranston is finally being noticed for his work. He won 3 Emmy's in a roll for his acting in Breaking Bad. Being a fan of Breaking Bad, Nicolas Winding Refn asked Bryan Cranston to be in Drive. Bryan Cranston sat down and made a list of "pros and cons" on this offer and, the "pros" won out. So, we are treated to a sneak peek of what this seasoned actor can do when given a chance in movies.

Bryan Cranston's character in Drive, Shannon, is presented to us as a shadow of man. There isn't much to go by as to who Shannon was in his previous life before he became a mechanic. All we know is what Albert Brooks' character (Bernie Rose) tells us. There is an interesting dynamic between Bernie Rose, Shannon and the Driver. I believe that Bernie Rose sees a bit of himself in Shannon and in turn Shannon sees a bit of himself in the Driver. Each wanting to give each other a chance. We can see their relationship play on each other when plans were made for a business venture in car racing. It was going to be more than a business, it was the Driver's second chance at whatever he ran away from, it was Shannon's second chance at being good at something once more and, it was for Bernie Rose to be able to run a legitimate business and move on from his life as a crime boss. The time it took for me to type out the above plot and character motivation was longer than what the movie presented in just a couple of scenes. This is where Drive excels. A lot of recent movies fail to remember that "movies" are "moving pictures." Instead of using the medium to "show," they waste too much time on "telling."

The screen writer of Drive, Hossein Amini does a great job with the "show" aspect in the screenplay which, is based on the novel, The Driver by James Sallis. A few lines were given to the Driver but, Ryan Gosling's idiosyncrasies makes up for the limited dialogue. The way Gosling plays the Driver reminds me a lot of the 90's Hong Kong actors. One of them being Andy Lau (劉德華).  Especially for his characters in A Moment of Romance (天若有情) and Wong Kar Wai (王家衛) directed As Tears Go By (旺角卡門). Being on the subject of Wong Kar Wai, the coolness of the Driver also reminded me of another Hong Kong actor,  Leon Lai (黎明) in Fallen Angels (墮落天使). The strong and silent archetype running from the past looking for a second chance. As we see the movie through a voyeuristic point of view along with the kinetic energy of the film, I really can't help but draw similarities between Drive and Fallen Angels. A lot of the shots are through windows and mirrors to give that candid look into the characters or seeing only what the character's perspective allows you to see. Also the intimate feeling of seclusion is set right off the bat when the movie opens. It shows us a top view of LA, a city with millions of people but, we only interact with the featured characters and hardly see anyone else in this enormous city. Which is a very Wong Kar Wai thing to do. In another sense, the way the action and violence is presented, Drive is a lot like another Hong Kong director's movie, Johnny To (杜琪峯). There's not much violence in Drive but, when it happens it leaves an impression. Either the character is on the receiving point or committing the violence, each of the violent scenes represents a changing point in the characters' story arc. For example: the elevator scene with the Driver, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and the Hitman.  It was executed beautifully; with the confined space, the lighting, the action, the soundtrack... everything in that sequence has a meaning, representing a turning point for each of the characters (even the hitman).  Also the scene had me wondering, who exactly was the Driver before we were introduced to him.

There is not one weak actor in Drive. Everyone adds an essence into the movie's ambiance. I don't remember much of Albert Brooks' previous work.  The only movie I remember him was Private Benjamin. I didn't know he had that wide of a range. His character, Bernie Rose, doesn't show up much in the movie but with each scene Brooks brings a lot of depth to his acting. Another memorable role was Ron Perlman's, Nino, a belligerent child of a crime boss. Like Bryan Cranston's Shannon, he has something to prove and it seems as though Nino uses the down and out Shannon to vent on. Again with resemblance of Drive and 90's Hong Kong Movies, I can see Shing Fui On (成奎安 or better known as Dai Sor 大傻) playing Nino's role and Anthony Wong (黃秋生) playing Shannon's role. The similarities of Drive to Hong Kong's golden era of film is an exciting thing for me. Are directors like Nicolas Winding Refn influenced by those films? I'm hoping that these type of films didn't fade away when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. Also, hopefully, possibly there will be more art house/action/character driven movies like Drive in the near future.

No comments:

Post a Comment