Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Real Hero: Drive (2011)

Drive (2011)
Rating: ****1/2
Starring:  Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston

Yeah, yeah. I know. It's not a slasher. Nor a horror movie. But I like a little variety for this site from time to time and seeing this film surprisingly dished out some slasher flick-worthy kills and its fair share of moments obviously inspired by the bodycount subgenre, it'll be a crime worthy of being forked on the eye and knifed on the throat if I didn't cover this awesome thriller!

Ryan Gosling is The Driver, a mysterious drifter who, as his moniker suggests, has exceptional driving skills and goes through his days as a stunt driver and mechanic. Unknown to many, he moonlights as a getaway driver for heists and other similar dirty jobs, a reputation that will come challenged the moment he meets his new neighbors, Irene and her young son, Benecio.

Encountering the family at a day just like any, the Driver instantly felt connected to them, willingly and happily looking after both until Irine's husband, Standard (yes, his name is "Standard"), finally comes home after serving time. Unfortunately, Standard still has a serious debt to pay as local criminals begin threatening him and his family should he not give in to their demands and help them pull off a robbery, something understandably isn't sitting well with the Driver.

Hoping to aid Standard settle everything and have his family live their lives in peace, the Driver joins him in the gig, only for him to realize that the robbery was botched from the very beginning and a far riskier and deadlier crime is being put into action behind his back, leading to him and everybody else connected to him getting hunted and he, in turn, hunting those responsible back.

Directed by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and based on a book by James Sallis, Drive is a modernized swing on pulpy noir crime dramas enriched with a gallery of characters intertwined to a mysterious and unsuspecting protagonist, delivered in an elegant exercise of style and flow best compared to the lull before a storm.

Much of Drive's success as a thriller is within the characterization of the multiple faces intertwined within this gritty and brutal yet oddly captivating play. Gosling fills in the shoes of The Driver channeling lone wolf-type of heroes as we learn really little of his character's past and know almost nothing of his personality save from what can be identified by and underneath his cold and calculating behavior. For a main cast that says little even during scenes where some dialogue could have been called for, with the movie's artistic and superb direction, Gosling's presence and body language made his Driver the walking personification of the term less is more work, even if he starts dishing out kills, torturing for intel or wholeheartedly enjoying a drive through the sunset with his new neighbors.

Contrasting the enigmatic hero includes Ron Perlman as a big-time operator working behind the guise of a regular strip mall pizzeria and Albert Brooks as a crime sidelining B-flick producer the Driver finds himself working for as a stunt driver. These men mean every bit of business they come across to, going as far as double crossing their underlings or biting the hand that feeds them for their own gains, and they're smartly portrayed less like your overly flashy movie villains and more of a realistic hoodlum who're either doing it to prove themselves or cover their arses out of fear of being snuffed out themselves. There's nothing more terrifying than an intimidated and frightened animal and Refn knew how to make this work, albeit the two lacking needed screen time to further develop their characters.

Tirade of perfectly timed extreme violence among its long stretches of calm and/or silent moments eventually follow these casts, making these shots of murder and torment all the more shocking and brutal than your everyday movie splatter for their absence of warning, building tension and anticipation to what comes next. Even better is that a lot of these kills are done wonderfully in practical make-up effects and a gaggle of stylized camera work and editing, particularly an elevator scene that is rumored to have been inspired by the infamous fire hydrant scene from Noe Gaspar's depressing masterpiece Irreversible (2002).

Other endearing technical aspects includes the driving scenes this movie supplies itself often, finding the right balance of sleek and fast to come out as by far the most realistic car chase one could find in cinema. The score used throughout the movie utilizes the alien yet retro feel of vaporwave music, fitting the vintage feel of the plot and visuals, and it even sports one of the finest songs I've heard Hero, sung by College featuring Electric Youth, to hauntingly yet beautifully close a hard hitting action thriller such as Drive.

Drive (2011), with its casting, direction and clear story telling knowledge of what works and what doesn't in a near-existential yet entertaining genre film, does the rarest thing modern film making could do and that is playing majority of its cards right. It plays on emotions, intrigue and action like your casual mainstream movie, all the while reserving enough to establish a style and bring out the best from its director creatively. It's a crime thriller I'm proud to have seen not only for the gore and it's a strong recommendation to all fellow genre fans!

1 male shot dead
1 female had her head shot off with a shotgun
1 male stabbed with a curtain rod
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male had his head repeatedly stomped on, crushed
1 male forked on the eye, throat stabbed with a knife
1 male had his wrist slit with a razor, bled to death
1 male killed in car crash
1 male drowned
1 stabbed with a knife
Total: 10

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