Drive (2011)

Drive (2011) – Perhaps I should have seen this when it first came out. Instead I waited a couple weeks, listening to a fortnight of hype. Hype kills. All in all, I liked Drive but hearing everyone proclaim it one of if not THE best movie of the year it couldn’t have lived up to those expectations. I did have a couple of problems with the movie. I think Ryan Gosling is a great actor (It’s not up for debate. See Half Nelson.) but the unnamed main character is just too much of a blank slate. Obviously that was an intentional choice but I don’t think it’s one that pays off for the movie.

Everyone in the movie is more interesting than the main character. Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, and especially Albert Brooks all have great characters they can sink their teeth into. Gosling has a personality. The character does not. You can see sometimes Gosling’s natural charisma as an actor trying to burst forth from underneath the cumbersome role he’s been saddled with, but it never quite makes it. I really kind of wish they’d given their Oscar-nominated star more to work with. While that most certainly is a problem, it’s not a deal-breaker. There still is enough in this movie to make it pretty good.

The best thing this movie has going for it is atmosphere and its intensity. The actions scenes and sporadic bursts of violence (spread out much more than the trailer would have you believe, but that’s a good thing) are shockingly brutal “HOLY SHIT!” moments. The movie has a very deliberate pacing that is a great break from the nonstop, often cacophonous, pace of most modern actions films (Although, that’s not always a bad thing. See Crank.). The soundtrack also gives the movie sort of a retro 1980s feel that I really dug (though I’m pretty sure it’s original music and the movie is NOT set in the 80s). The atmosphere of Los Angeles is captured too in a way reminiscent of Michael Mann movies like Heat or Collateral. I never got around to seeing earlier films by director Nicholas Winding Refn, like Bronson or the Pusher trilogy, but I think now they are on my to-do list.

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