Monday, February 13, 2012

Drive (2011)

DRIVE (2011)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive stars Ryan Gosling (whose character is simply billed as “Driver”) as a stunt driver, mechanic and part time getaway driver. As complicated and exciting as his life may seem, his life becomes more fulfilled when he befriends his neighbor Irene (Mulligan). Soon after, Irene’s husband is released from prison and “Driver’s” life spirals into real danger when he gets involved with the mob in order to protect Irene and her young son.

The plot sounds like it could be interesting and noir-ish, but it’s really not. Drive is nothing more than a plodding story rife with ridiculously long pauses in dialogue accompanied by wistful looks. Within a half hour I was completely bored and frustrated with the pacing of the film, which seemed to last far beyond its 100 minute running time. Not helping is the god awful music that plays throughout a lot of the film. The J-Pop sounding lyrics and voice coupled with the bad 80’s synth lines are laughably and distractingly bad.

Gosling and Mulligan are both good, proven actors but they didn’t help this film along at all. If they were supposed to have chemistry, I didn’t get the memo. Their blank stares only made them seem disinterested. This could be more forgivable for Irene’s character since she’s so undeveloped, but we’re supposed to believe that the Driver is supposed to be mysterious and like Eastwood’s iconic “Man with No Name”, when really he comes across as really dim. Much has also been made of Albert Brooks’ supporting role as a mob boss, but I just didn’t see it. Yes, it was a different role than he has ever played, and he did a fine job, but just because you play a really minor role against type and brandish a straight edge razor doesn’t make a role revelatory. Even Ron Perlman, who, despite growing increasingly simian in appearance is usually good for a few machismo moments, underserved as a mean mobster.

I’m not sure how it’s possible to make a film about a stunt driver who happens to get mixed up in the mob while making some tricky getaway drives so completely hapless and boring, but Refn manages it to do this in spades. There are a couple of good driving sequences, and a few violent moments that are so sudden and out of place that they are actually welcome because at least something is happening, but that little bit of redemption is quickly smothered by a lot of mediocrity. Drive is a film that should never have been made past a 25 minute running time because there simply is not enough material to work with; at least with the presentation we’re given. Drive has been universally hailed, but I think what is being mistaken for style is, quite frankly, pretention.

2 out of 5 stars

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