Review : Drive (2011)
"There Are No Clean Getaways"
Released (UK) 23rd September 2011, Rated 18. Runtime: 100 minutes (1 hours, 40 minutes).
Official Synopsis: A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.
Blue Corner Review, by Pete
Added October 16th, 2011
Despite the title, this is not a racing movie, nor would it be fair to saddle it solely as a crime thriller. Coupled with the striking 80’s electric soundtrack – a mixture of retro pop and some Cliff Martinez produced synth – and some great visual stylings, there’s a movie centering around the relationship between our two leads. Neo-Noir’s probably the most appropriate genre overall, although I must admit to being quite partial to the term ‘Neon Noir’, first heard by myself when used by Woody Haut as the title of his follow-up book to ‘Pulp Culture’ – from the second the gaudy pink titles rang on screen to the sound of Kavinsky, it was always going to be what stuck.
Working in a local garage, Ryan Gosling’s character also works as a stunt driver for the movie industry – as a side, however, he moonlights as a wheelman for the L.A. criminal underworld. It’s made clear that’s he good, if not the best, at what he does, although there’s no back-story or flashbacks provided here – the viewer’s left to make up their own mind on just who this man is, and we are never offered a name.
Our introduction to ‘Driver’ is during one of the aforementioned side jobs – you buy your journey from A to B, and the clock starts when he says otherwise you are being left on the pavement. There is not going to be any interaction beyond the job – what you do from the second the drop off is made, literally, is entirely outside of his remit. There’s a dedication to precision, and it’s thrown entirely off course when he meets neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son.
The budding romance that plays out is shortly lived, with the proverbial spanner in the works being added in the form of her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), unexpectedly paroled from prison. It transpires that he’s still liable for a fairly substantial sum of cash owed to local criminals and, with a threat being made against Irene and her son, Driver offers his services to assist with a local job that would clear the debt.
The job looks fairly straightforward – a robbery at a local pawn shop. A third party, Blanche (the always lovely Christina Hendricks), is foisted upon them to ensure it goes ‘to plan’, although the aim is simply to get in, grab the cash, and get out. All is not as it seems, however, with Irene’s husband being gunned down whilst exiting the pawn shop, and a mysterious second vehicle giving chase as Driver and Blanche make their escape.
The transition of Driver at this point sees him go from the calm, methodical character we were introduced to, to what I assume was atypical of his mysterious past – a cold, brutal killer. Whilst done through necessity in order to protect Irene, and every effort made to get out of the situation without further bloodshed, there’s hints of regret at times when things are beginning to go to far. Indeed, following Irene witnessing Driver beat a hitman, repeatedly stomping on his face when down rather than walking away, there’s a look of shame as she backs off. We are told that Driver simply showed up at the garage where he works looking for a job a few years prior, suggesting he had tried to start afresh from whatever life he had previously. Garage owner Shannon, played by Bryan Cranston, comes across as a father figure in some ways, and it seems that Driver wanted him to have the stolen cash after being advised to leave the area for good, being stashed in the back of his car.
This was the first of Refn’s movies that I’ve watched – the slow, lingering shots are impressive from start to finish and, outside of the cars, this could easily have been a movie set in the early 80s, aided in no small part by the sumptuous soundtrack. The supporting cast assembled from a range of TV shows – a selection of some of the best from some of the best – all do well with their roles, particularly Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as the local crime bosses. Pearlman’s never let me down, regardless of what he’s been in or the type of role, but I was surprised by Brooks, having never seen him outside of comedic work.
The only real criticism of the main story I can really give is that the lingering shots predominately featuring complete silence, which I do genuinely love, went on a shade too long in two separate scenes between Gosling and Mulligan. Cropping them ever so slightly, or at least allowing them to share more than knowing glances and awkward smiles, would have broke up said scenes for the better – whilst it’s something that I can overlook in this instance, I can imagine the vitriol that will be directed at the movie by some other viewers as a result (including, I’m sure, Lisa in the Red Corner review). I appreciate that this movie’s likely quite decisive for many – it’s either going to work for you or you’re going to hate it. With the soundtrack currently blaring in the background as I type, I can safely say that I fall under the first category.