More thoughts on “Drive” I was paraphrased, somewhat disparagingly in an article from Salon last week that dealt with audiences not quite being as on-board with Drive as critics. I was referred to as “champion of the mainstream, audience-pleasing cinema” and held up as one of the few critics who did not like Drive. This was my response (HERE is my original review), and I thought I’d share it here as well.

I suppose I’ve earned the ‘defender of the mainstream’ tag, as I’ve long felt that it’s important to point out when a major studio picture does it right, as much as when an arthouse picture does it wrong. As I’ve often said, when we write-off The Mummy or Avatar, we deserve Prince of Persia or Tron: Legacy. Having said that, what I most disliked about Drive were what I felt its bids at mainstream pandering, or at least its ideology that seems more fit for a fourteen-year old boy.

We’re supposed to think ‘Driver’ is cool and sophisticated, icy and prone to acts of sudden violence. Yet we’re also supposed to think that he’s some kind of hero (so says the soundtrack, quite literally) because he has token feelings for his cute neighbor and is nice to her son. At the end of the day, we’re supposed to actively root for him purely because Ryan Gosling is a handsome movie star and because Carey Mulligan is pretty. I have no problem with anti-heroes, but I loathe films where the anti-hero is supposed to be ‘a hero’ because he is played by a big star or because said scoundrel takes a token interest in the token love interest. It’s just a variation on the ‘He’s not so bad because he cries at Opera’ cliche.

Drive has been compared to Point Blank quite a bit, but at least that picture had the courage of its convictions. Lee Marvin was an unsympathetic bastard from start to finish. There was no need to make him ‘relatable’ or heroic by pairing him with a pretty girl or a kid. Heck, even Mel Gibson’s Payback (even the compromised theatrical cut) didn’t actually make his character into a hero in any conventional sense. Despite the title of the Salon piece in question, Drive didn’t turn me off because it was ‘too violent’ (it’s no worse than any conventional R-rated action picture) or because it was ‘too artsy’. It turned me off because it was a painfully conventional and contrived narrative that guises up its by-the-books story and utter lack of character with a token amount of visual panache.

To paraphrase Albert Brooks’s stunningly self-referential line, critics said that Drive was cool, artsy, and European, but really it’s simplistic and conventional. I’d no more give a pass to Drive for being ‘cool’ than I would let Tron: Legacy slide because it had lots of lights and 3D effects. Be it at the megeplex or the arthouse, I do demand some substance with my style.

To read more go to MENDELSON’S MEMOS

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