I’ll start by linking you to the director of this movie, cuz uh, you should know who he is. Aside from having a really awesome name, he’s probably the most revolutionary (popular) director in Hollywood, and frankly, I’m pretty surprised he made it this far, cuz he is OUT there man. The movie Bronson, which features probably my second favorite male actor, Tom Hardy, pretty much acting like a lunatic for an hour and a half on screen, is one of the most out there movies I’ve seen in my life, and let me tell you, I have SEEN some s*** my friend, I have SEEN some s***. Then he decided to push the envelope even further by making a movie about VIKINGS, which will ALWAYS end up AWESOME, right? I just pumped my fist as I typed that, thinking about Vikings. Except, Refn’s take on Vikings was pretty much completely insane, and more of a drug addled trip through the land for one Viking seeking revenge (at least that part was right, those zany Vikings are always seeking on revenge on some thing or another), which was admittedly slow-moving and NOT what I expected, but with Refn, you always get what you didn’t expect. The guy is pretty much a genius.
And this movie is probably his masterpiece, at least so far (this dude is still pretty young). It got completely hosed last year at the Oscars, where it probably should have swept them. My personal favorite movie from last year was Warrior, but that one didn’t need to win ALL THE AWARDS like this one did (well, ‘cept that best supporting actor Nick Nolte took home for it, he earned that one), it was just a fantastic movie. This movie is just a…just a different fig, man. If you had to classify it, I suppose it would be an action movie, but man, it’s so much more than that. Ryan Gosling, whom the ladies love and the dudes want to be, is in top form here. He’s arguably the best actor in Hollywood right now, and I first noticed him in a little movie no one saw, called The United States of Leland. If you’ve seen Drive and loved it, then go rent that next. Or Half Nelson. Or even Murder by Numbers, with stinko Sandra Bullock, where the show was stolen by a really young Gosling (no, not a little ducky, although, a cute little duck could probably still upstage the awful Sandra Bullock) even. He’s incredible, and what’s better is that he picks his roles carefully, which is why we don’t see him as much as we probably should (sorry ladies!) in movies, but that’s a good thing. That means we aren’t gonna see him in Garfield 3 or some crappy animated movie, or some sort of Rocky and Bullwinkle remake. Oh wait, that already happened, I was thinking it was just a nightmare. Shame on you Robert DeNiro, shaaaame!
I haven’t even talked about the plot yet, have I? Well guess what, here’s another one where the plot takes a backseat to the actors. Granted, this movie is intense, incredibly violent – one of the more violent movies you are likely to see actually, another thing Refn is well known for, but it’s based on a very short story that Refn took a lot of liberties with. And they were some pretty awesome libeties too. But it’s essentially about a guy, Driver – yep, so cool that he doesn’t even NEED a name – who is pretty much the epitome, the stereotype, of the classic hero. Soft spoken, stoic, doesn’t have a whole lot to say. He pays the bills by being a mechanic, but he’s also a stunt driver on the side, usually managed by the never bad Bryan Cranston, whose also his boss at the car shop. He also takes occasional jobs from bad guys as a driver – but that is all, he doesn’t assist in robberies, isn’t gonna hurt anyone, etc. He just drives. This is portrayed by the excellent opening scenes that build the tension from the start, and are accompanied by incredibly strange, very PINK opening credits, while a fairly epic song called “Night Call” plays in the background. From the start, I knew I was in for something special with this movie. This was going to be a different bird altogether, and it certainly was. And a note about Driver’s profession – yes, I said that he is a stoic character, much like the old heroes of the past – I’m talking about John Wayne, Steve McQueen (mostly him, this movie is A LOT like Bullitt except it’s actually more well done, just doesn’t have as epic of a car chase), Alain Delon – oh wait, you don’t know him, do you? Well he was a french movie star, pretty huge, and starred in a movie that is near exactly like this movie – called Le Samourai, from 1967. Ok, if you are still with me after that run-on sentence, he is like those classic characters, yes – but different. Different in the fact that he lives 100% for the thrill of something – driving, violence, killing, I would imagine sex, but this movie isn’t rated NC-17. The look on Gosling’s face shows that a little bit, but rest assured that yeah, he’s the hero in this movie, but he isn’t a completely good character at all. He lives for this crap.
Here’s the poster for the main movie I compare Drive to, btw – sorta looks like the same kind of character, right? Stoic, reserved, also someone you might not want to piss off. I’m gonna try and not get TOO nerdy on this review (I realize it’s probably too late, I haven’t made you laugh in like two whole paragraphs have I?! Too many nerdy tangents, I know too much useless information, and I do apologize), but the title of that movie is obviously just “The Samurai” in French (I am so versatile with all the languages I know, its why they pay me the big bucks), and this movie, Drive, Bullitt, all have heroes that pretty much follow the old fashioned idea of the samurai code. Protect the ones they love no matter what cost, no regard for their own lives as long as honor is involved. It’s an outdated idea of course, it pretty much was even in the samurai days (check out the movie Harakiri to explore that idea), and usually a hero with these ideals probably isn’t gonna survive at the end, and hey thats ok.
I should probably talk about the girl in the movie, since she’s sort of essential to the plot. She’s played by the lovely and (I think) under rated Carrie Mulligan, which also represents Refn’s willingness to switch things up – in the short story version, this role is for a single African American female, not a pretty blonde girl with a kid. Refn tweaked a lot of things from the story, and since Carrie is such a talented actress, it works. If we’d have gotten some loser like Sarah Jessica Horseface or Blech Lively (who nearly ruined the decent movie Savages) or some other flavor the month, it would have fell flat. But Mulligan is great here, and we see why Gosling’s character wants to protect her. And protect her he does – QUITE violently, the body count in this movie is pretty high, which is fine, but in these violent scenes we see Gosling’s darkside as the “hero” character – he loves this stuff. He loves being the man who can save the day, and you know what? He likes killing just as much as the bad guys do, hell, even more. I looked for an image of his face after he stomps the hell out of a guy in an elevator, something almost…ecstatic, sexual, in his eyes (no homo, I’m just saying what I saw there) after he killed someone, showing that sure he’s a good guy and will protect who he loves…but he lives for this stuff. It even makes me question whether or not he would be able to settle down with this pretty girl forever, would that be enough? Probably not.
And that is why this movie is brilliant – because sure, the story is pretty much a basic one, so much so that I don’t even feel like I need to describe what happens – but the characters are anything but. Would Mulligan’s character have stuck around with this violent hero at the end? I’m not even sure if I care, it isn’t what this movie is about, and the hero doesn’t get the girl all the time anyways. It’s about Gosling’s descent into becoming what the bad guys he kills have become – and whether or not he escapes going over to the darkside at the end is pretty much in the air at the end. And that, my friends, is how you make a fantastic ending.
I can’t say enough good things about this movie, which is probably obvious since I’m verging on over 1500 words for this review. It kicks out a lot of ideas that Hollywood just doesn’t venture out with anymore, and naturally this would come from a visionary director. This was arguably the best movie from 2011, and if anything I hope that it makes everyone keep an eye on Refn. We (especially the ladies) already have our eye on Gosling and know he’s going to be legendary – his portrayal in this movie is definitely always going to be one of his high notes.