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Quick thoughts on “Drive”

Want to read something amusing: as I am typing this, I am watching an Allstate commercial featuring the stuntman who calls himself “Mayhem,” and it suddenly dawns on me what I wished the movie “Drive” would be, and whom I wanted to star as the lead character. I chose to see Drive, due to all of the praise heaped upon it. Alas, I disagree.  While the critics praise “Drive” for being a neo-noir thriller, I see it as a film school exercise in style, with an all-star cast trying to stretch their acting chops. There is just enough substance to pass as entertaining thanks to the stellar cast, but be warned – if you want to see an art-house drama, you go to an art-house, not a multiplex, which is where you will find this movie.

Ryan Gosling was not the first choice to play the lead character simply known as “Driver.” Hugh Jackman was originally pegged for the role. Like I mentioned above, I would have settled for Dean Winters. Gosling’s good looks betrays his character’s isolationist portrayal. He is directed to downplay his actions, as well as his sentences, but watching him SLOWLY DRINK A CUP OF COFFEE,  or CRUISING THE STREETS OF LOS ANGLES WELL BELOW THE SPEED LIMIT cries out of pretentiousness, and superfluousness. To give credit where credit is due, Gosling does act the hell out of those scenes. Driver’s white scorpion jacket, the film’s hot pink, scripted font, and new wave soundtrack lead us to the notion that this movie is supposed to be an homage to the 1980’s. However, the film is too inconsistent and have many moments where it drops its 80’s roots entirely, leaving me to believe it’s either a case of bait-and-switch, or that it is supposed to be just of many styles Director Nicolas Winding Refn is trying to blend in. If it was supposed to be the former, then we are missing the gratuitous sex scene, doing lines of coke, and the ever-present staple of every 80’s film: the montage. If it is the latter, then this is a case of the director setting the bar way to high by trying to be everything to everyone.

When a comedy is panned, a typical critique is that the film is just one sketch-comedy skit padded out to a featured length running time (*cough* SNL *cough*). “Drive” plays out like the dramatic equivalent – a short film, or acting school assignment that is extended out to 1 hour 40 minutes. For example the entire first act consists of the courtship between Driver and Carey Mulligan’s character, Irene. While the awkward silence between the two characters may be realistic, it is something that can be cut out of a supposed action film. The opening scene establishes Driver as a cool and calculated character. The mundane cruising scenes are extraneous.

The bottom line: this film is overrated. Just because it may possibly be the most entertaining movie showing at you local theater, doesn’t mean it’s a sure-fire Best Picture nominee. But the critics are right about the supporting cast – Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, and Ron Perlman deliver the goods. It’s definitely worth seeing… as a rental. My grade = C+ .

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