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“Drive” review: isn’t ‘cool’

HollywoodNews.com: There is an old Robert Rodriguez interview where he comments about how shocked he was by the positive reviews that greeted the release of El Mariachi. He hinted at certain biases that critics have toward films that are supposed to automatically be ‘better’ than the rest. To paraphrase, Rodriguez thought he was making an exploitation film, but because it was a foreign movie with subtitles, critics found all kinds of symbolism that wasn’t really there. Nicolas Winding Refn directs the hell out of Drive, itself based on a novel by James Sallis. But the visual poetry is in service of a painfully contrived and hilariously generic narrative, and even said ‘coolness’ is so overwrought that it eventually turns into self-parody and becomes as boring as the story being told.

A token amount of plot: “Driver” (Ryan Gosling) works by day as an auto mechanic and stunt driver, while moonlighting by night as a getaway driver for thieves and the like. His life is one of general isolation, but that changes when he takes a mutual interest in his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. Even when Irene’s husband is released from prison, the so-far platonic affection still exists. So when said husband (Oscar Isaac) ends up in hot water over protection money, Driver offers to help him pull of the heist to settle the debt. The heist goes fine, no one gets hurt, and everyone lives happily-ever after. That last sentence was a joke.

I purposely avoided any trailers and TV spots for the film, having been told that they were quite spoiler-filled. Having seen the film, I can only wonder how this film could be spoiled, since it is so formulaic that anyone who has ever seen a crime film can accurately plot out what is going to happen and when. Predictability is not in-itself a flaw, but Drive takes 100 minutes to tell maybe 30 minutes worth of story. The vast majority of the running time is given to Gosling silently driving around the city and/or exchanging mostly silent glances with said damsel-in-distress.

You say these scenes are ‘artistic’ and filled with symbolic character moments. I say it felt like a cheap direct-to-DVD action film filling up the running time with redundant driving scenes and scenes of two people staring at each other. After a terrific and suspenseful opening action sequence (where stealth and silence prevail over loud vehicle crunching), the picture slows to a crawl as it introduces its primary characters (that’s good) and spends oodles of screen time merely letting our two would-be lovebirds exchange ‘romantic’ glances (that’s bad).

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  • jo jo
    September 18, 2011 | Permalink |

    this film sucked. the music was really annoying and gosling is dressed like a male model thru out the whole thing and the mobsters werent convincing.

  • mike d
    September 19, 2011 | Permalink |

    call me crazy, but i was entranced from the opening scene. and I found it refreshing the way the story unfolded. and the music….it rocked. I liked the lack of dialogue! I think the film was more about the feeling, then even the story, and the feeling is what is still sitting with me three days after seeing it. Was it perfect? Nope, but I don’t go to a theater to see a movie often…I will probably go see this at the theater again…my two cents…

  • September 19, 2011 | Permalink |

    You’re not crazy, Mike. I loved DRIVE as well, but it does seem to be dividing people into “loved it” and “hated it” camps.

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