I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Drive

tn_driveRemember how the driver in Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER didn’t get a name, he was just “The Driver”? The driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE is so minimalistic he doesn’t even get a ‘the.’ Or an ‘r’. Ryan Gosling plays said driver, a mysterious toothpick-chewing dude who’s a masterful getaway driver and does stunt driving for the movies. He also works at a garage for Brian Cranston, who helps set up his jobs and prepare his getaway cars. When not working Drive is sparking up a relationship with his neighbor, Carey Mulligan and her son. He’s better with the kid than you might think – even offers him a toothpick.

I’d say this guy is about 70% Steve McQueen, 20% The Terminator, 10% Edward Scissorhands. It’s a great character and performance for Gosling. When he’s not on the job he seems like kind of a savant, a sweet, quiet guy with a goofy smile, doesn’t talk much even when it would be socially preferable. Then when it’s time he turns steely and intense, all business. He never carries guns but sure knows how to use them when necessary. “When necessary” is not that much considering how good he is with just fists and feet or sharp metal things. Like Stuntman Mike he has a silver jacket that he always wears, even as it gets more and more bloodied. It has a scorpion on the back. He says something about a scorpion one time late in the movie, implying that it has some unspecified significance to him.

mp_driveThere are tense car chases, bursts of surprisingly brutal violence, and nerve-racking scenes of waiting in the getaway car, watching the front door of an establishment, hoping not to hear shots fired inside. It opens with a fuckin wallop, a great getaway scene that shows his skills as a driver, his clever strategy and his extreme cool under pressure. Its declaration of badass intent is Gosling wearing sunglasses, driving, some kind of throbbing Blondie-esque keyboard throbbing from the radio and his credit in purple with the RISKY BUSINESS font.

Alot of the style of the movie is a tribute to a rare commodity: ’80s cool, not ironic, ages well. Basically Michael Mann circa THIEF. Quiet, sparse, broody, night, Los Angeles. This is a solid new entry in the arthouse badass category along with THE LIMEY, GHOST DOG, THE AMERICAN, etc.

That might cause trouble in some multiplexes. I could’ve done without all the sighing in the auditorium. There was a dude in my row who angrily muttered at one point “There better be a gunfight after this.” Later, “I’m gonna walk out of this movie.” But he didn’t. I actually think it might’ve got him at the end, I’m not sure. It doesn’t go all VALHALLA RISING on us – I mean, it’s ambiguous about some important questions but it does build to a traditional showdown type climax, not a bunch of poetic weirdness. But at the end I heard a girl in the theater say “It was soooooooo slow!” and I’ve heard reports of this type of reaction across the country.

It’s kinda funny. Why is it that the people least open to seeing a different type of movie than they expected are the same ones that don’t know how to take 2 minutes to read what a movie is before they go see it? But it’s also kinda befuddling. I can sense that this style is gonna be challenging for certain people but I can’t really understand exactly why. I mean it’s not THE TRANSPORTER 2 but it’s not exactly LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD either. It’s only 100 minutes long, it begins, middles and ends with a bang, it has several really interesting characters played by recognizable and good looking Hollywood actors, some strong relationships, scary bad guys, better action than is generally allowed these days (cars, guns, punching, stabbing), a couple laughs, a bunch of shocks.

But it’s quiet. That’s it. They don’t talk alot, and Refn likes to let the camera sit still and watch an actor’s face. I guess these days people can’t even wipe their ass without watching part of a youtube video, sending 3 text messages and updating their Teen Friendpalz status to “wiping ass watching part of y-tube v. & texting x3 ;p”  so to ask them to enjoy a little mood and atmosphere for more than 10 seconds is equivalent to some horrendous torture Torquemeda would’ve come up with during the Inquisition but was too timid to try it out.

I honestly believe if they took this exactl movie and just played songs from the 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS soundtrack non-stop from beginning to end that these same people would’ve liked it. But for some reason that quiet just pisses them off. They don’t want to be alone with their thoughts, I guess. I paid to be entertained, not to be entertained well.

Anyway, DRIVE chose not to use the 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS soundtrack. It’s not wall-to-wall music, but it’s really good music. It’s the second best type of soundtrack: the one where it’s not the kind of music I would normally listen to, but in conjunction with the images it gives me chills. Just hearing a clip of the opening credits song during a podcast I wanted to get up and go to the theater right then to watch the movie again. The score by Cliff Martinez is also the second best type, the moody old school keyboard type deal. (First best type is blaxploitation funk, obviously.)

Everybody’s really good in this one. For example you got Perlman, a small time gangster but a scary one, partly because he’s desperate to claw his way up to the top. I know Perlman’s played a gangster sort of like this a million times, but here the movie is more worth his efforts. So it’s nice to see him in a good role, and no 8 hours in the makeup chair.

But for sure the most brilliant casting idea is Brooks as movie producer turned underworld figure Bernie Rose (the director of CANDYMAN did this?). He’s scary, but he’s still Albert Brooks. He seems kind of nice actually, but with the underlying threat that if you cross him or if he no longer needs you there could be trouble. I kept wondering if he really would rather just be friends than kill people or if that’s just his sick way of terrorizing people. I decided he’s for real, he does want to be your buddy, but business is business.

Oscar Isaac has a similar ambiguousness as Mulligan’s husband, just back from the joint. I want to believe he’s a nice guy but I have more reason to believe he’ll want to kill our driver. I mean, nobody’s gonna be happy about the young handsome guy that’s been “helping out” while they were locked up. Careful with that one, ladies.

I kept trying to remember where I knew this actor from, and as soon as I saw his name on the end credits I remembered that’s Blue, the guy that runs the imaginary brothel in SUCKER PUNCH. Most people I know hated that movie but I hope they’d admit he was good. In that one he was clearly the villain but he makes these little speeches about how he’s doing what he’s doing because he cares about the girls, and it seems like he really believes that shit. He must be a master of playing the evil nice guy.

I guess you could say our driver blurs the line too. We like him because he’s interesting to watch, and then we start to think he’s okay because he’s obviously sincere about taking care of this girl and her son. And even her husband. But he’s a criminal, he’s a very good killer, and business is business for him too. He’s crazy. There’s a point where he wears a disguise to follow somebody, which I enjoyed because I’d just seen a 50 Cent movie that annoyed me because he kept being really obvious about following people and I couldn’t believe they didn’t see him. This guy puts in the effort to make it believable. But then there’s these great shots where he’s standing rigidly in the dark, stalking this guy, and it’s like holy shit, have I been rooting for Michael Meyers this whole time?

There’s a great moment where he does something way more crazy than we knew he was capable of, and he does it right after kissing the girl, and then there’s a long shot of her, probably still in shock, and her expression is not quite readable but not what you’d expect either. I think there are alot of ways you could read it, and I like that.

Oh shit, this whole movie is ambiguous. Might be a metaphor for Christianity’s encroachment on the Norse religions. Or it might just be understated. I’ll have to see it again to be sure.

This is the third Refn movie I’ve seen after BRONSON and VALHALLA RISING. Each one is better than the last. Like those ones it’s a serious-minded, arty type of filmatism, derivative of the masters, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Here he has it all under control better than I’ve seen before.

Since seeing the movie I’ve heard a couple interviews with Refn, who says that it’s about a man who drives around at night listening to pop music because it’s the only way he can feel, and that it was based on Grimm’s fairy tales and that the mask part was him turning into a super hero, that he considers himself “a fetish filmmaker,” that it’s an autobiographical story about how he’d do anything to protect his wife. And I’ve read about Ryan Gosling saying that it’s about the fakeness of Hollywood and a guy who thinks he’s in a movie. And I’ve read people calling it “existential,” because if a guy is driving around being quiet you gotta figure it means he’s contemplating his existence or whatever.

I didn’t really pick up on any of those things while watching it. And sometimes I think a certain type of movie buff has to call a movie like this “existential” as a phony justification for watching an awesome movie. If it was just a normal crime movie they would look down on it but if it’s “existential” they can praise it to the sky, it seems like. But you only get one existence, pal. You oughta let loose, live your existence and enjoy awesome movies.

All those interpretations are legit, but to me the important thing about DRIVE is that it’s a great genre movie done with style, atmosphere, restraint, and patience. And with enough quiet moments in between that your brain can fill it in with whatever poetical interpretation it wants.

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there were two clever gimmicks I wanted to mention at the end ’cause they’re sort of spoilers

1. the scene in the garage where Cranston walks past a long row of badass car after badass car while talking about the one he prepared for the kid, and when he finally gets to it it’s a Chevy Impala.

2. the reveal of his day job after the opening robbery, where he’s wearing a police uniform for a movie role, and for a second you think “Holy shit, this guy’s a cop!?”

It’s a movie that constantly impresses with ideas like that, but never nudges you and says “hey, lookit this, you see what I’m doing here?” It impresses with little details like the blase look on a hooker’s face when the driver storms into the dressing room wielding a hammer, or with brief injections of utter strangeness, like the musical scene of the scary-mask-wearing driver walking up and staring dumbly into the window of Perlman’s pizza parlor.  I don’t know why you want these people to be talking all the time. They say so much more with their mouths shut.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 at 1:40 am and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

158 Responses to “Drive”

  1. Loved this. Went to watch this expecting to be disappointed and was shocked i wasn’t.

    The trailer kinda mis-packaged this as something else, but it played well, with the Driver character being seemingly so awkward and distant out of the car, but when driving so in control and assured. This contrast i think served to highlight the calm stillness, with the sudden changes of character during the movie. (Little hints that there was more to this guy than a borderline stoner vacancy, like coming home, standing in the apartment and then going straight out to drive)

    Could have done with more Albert Brooks though.

  2. That kiss is the best movie moment since the “I drink your milkshake” monologue in There Will Be Blood. It was utterly sublime. Perhaps one of the best on screen kisses I have ever seen.

  3. I really like when SPOILERS Gosling goes to the makeup trailer to pick up the mask in order to start following Perlman, on the oppoaite side of the room are the full casts of Christina Hendricks’ head that were used for her untimely demise. That shit is so meta that talking about it makes me feel like I’m being watched.

  4. As always a witty, insightful review. Vern touched on most of my own rumblings on the film: the 80s Mann feel, the conflicting thematic reads from the star and director, and the Arthouse vs 3 Act Hollywood pros and cons.

    I thought Drive was a cinematic gift. A unique, strongly directed genre film. My only real issue is with the narrative. It relied on some real closed loop coincidences, i.e. how two sets of bad guys were connected. If the story was more of a skeleton for the style, mood and coolness then it should have just been streamlined and less contrived. It pulled me out of the hypnotic vibe a little. Small compliant.

    The other reference no one really mentions is Taxi Driver and the idea that the narrative is actually the protagonist’s version of reality. To me, it seems the hero sees himself as the wheelman in some 80s action flick and the music and vibe are constructs of his vision of reality. But like Vern said: the beauty of this movie lies in it’s ability to be read so many ways.

  5. Great review, even if it reads as you actually enjoyed Step Up 3 more than this.

    I loved this movie, but (SPOILER) it kinda dropped the balls when it changed it`s focus from sensitive psychopath in love with attractive neigbourgh and became an ordinary thriller. Nothing wrong with that, though, but the juxtaposition between romantic love and ultraviolence in the first half of the picture was so goddamn brilliant. I would have preferred the drive(r) on the run with the girl and her son instead of the traditional badass vs gangsters ending. It was still the best cinematic experience of the year, though (but I haven`t seen Step Up 3, so I might be wrong..)

    Also, you might enjoy Pusher 1-3. I love them, but I also live in the area where Pusher 1 takes place, were an extra in Pusher 2, once shot a short on the locations of Pusher 3, know the composers and the screenwriter of Pusher 1, worked with a couple of the actors etc.

  6. I really want to see this movie, but something told me I should wait for blu ray, it sounds like I might have made the right choice

    I will flat out BUY this sucker when it eventually does come out though

  7. I liked this a lot; although I don’t think it’s quite the classic some are making it out to be. The opening getaway scene was my favorite part. I like how Refn never showed the car from the outside. All the shots were of the Driver, his radio or of his POV. It was a really terrific way to establish his character, his thought process, and what he was capable of. I just wish there had been another sequence of this caliber elsewhere in the film. The performances were top notch (Particularly Brooks) but the other driving scenes (there weren’t many of them) paled in comparison to the beginning sequence.

  8. I agree with the consensus. This was a really well crafted film. The parts of it that other people seemed to hate (the pace and the lack of dialogue) were the elements that I really loved.

    I do have one caveat. The interviews with the Refn and Gosling have killed a little bit of the magic of this film. Hearing them talk about fairy tale archetypes and the Driver character’s need to listen to music alone has confirmed a little of my suspicions about Refn. I think he’s a talented filmmaker who wants to be a director-philosopher like Kubrick or Kurosawa, but he’s actually more of a pastiche, post-modern filmmaker in the mold of Tarantino. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tarantino is a great director. But I think the sooner that Refn sees his limitations, the better his films will be. Drive was an aesthetically pleasing film, but I didn’t necessarily feel it was a “deep” film. The grey area between hero and villain has been done a number of times before, and it has been done better. Drive had aesthetics for aesthetics sake, and that’s okay by me.

  9. is the 50 cent movie the one with BRUCE that just came out on dvd?

    i have a feeling that i’m in the minority on that one even though i’m merely giving it a pass, possibly because of low expectation.

    http://saturdaynightscreening.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/set-up-2011-setup-2011/

  10. I have nothing to add other than I really dug it too. There were a few people in the theater who seemed irritated by the pace, but that one crazy bit of ultraviolence got a lot of nervous laughter.

  11. Once again, Refn has created an interesting atmosphere and forgotten to put a movie in it, letting any and all narrative interest drain away long before…

    Nah, I’m just fucking with you. Nothing but pure, primordial love on this one from frame one on. I’ve already seen it twice and got the soundtrack. I didn’t like the Refn films I saw before this one but that’s okay because if making those helped him learn how to make DRIVE then it was time well spent. I was sucked in by the music and ambiance, impressed by the filmatism, shocked by the violence, and ultimately moved by the romanticism. It hit me right in eight or nine of my sweet spots. There’s little I like more than the story of a hard man who finds something worth bleeding for. I’m not interested in fairy tales or existentialism. The story works at face value for me. Any subtext is just an after-dinner mint.

    Things I loved:

    1. I loved that the driving scenes actually felt like driving, not like movie driving. Most filmmakers spend most of their time in L.A. yet they never manage to get the feel of driving right, the quiet moments, the slowing down for corners, the ghostly drift from lane to lane. Throw in some throbbing synths and breathy chicks singing about heroes and I’m ready to make out with this movie and then stomp a dude’s head off for it.

    2. I liked that the husband didn’t act how you’d expect. See, Vern, I actually bought that Standard was a basically nice guy who knew he fucked up and accepted the fact that his adorable young wife wasn’t going to be completely without male company while he was locked up. He wasn’t happy about it but I can’t see him offing Detective Drive after the job. Maybe I’m just a sucker but I believed him that he wanted to redeem himself. Maybe you were picking up residual Blue vibes. I didn’t recognize him at all but then I rewatched SUCKER PUNCH this weekend (better the second time) and spotted him. That guy’s real good, we’re probably gonna see him in a lot of stuff after this movie.

    3. Albert Brooks was great. I’m seeing a Supporting Actor Oscar for him, kind of a Jack Palance style career validation thing. Makes good copy, has a narrative the media can get behind. My interpretation of the character was that maybe he likes being nice to people when he can because he usually has to be such a bastard most of the time, but anybody who has that glass case of ornamental shanks is a bit too precious about the way he stabs people to actually be a nice guy deep down. It seems like he knows it, too, but what’s he gonna do? Sometimes motherfuckers need a vein or two opened up. Time to make the donuts.

    4. I liked that Gosling smiled a lot. Most stoic tough guys are pretty stone-faced but Gosling plays him like he knows that that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re around people, you smile and they leave you alone. It’s this weird, enigmatic smile where you have no idea what’s going on behind it. I’d never seen Gosling in anything before but I got a pretty good sense of why he’s awesome from this. It was basically FUCK YEAH RYAN GOSLING: THE MOTION PICTURE. I’ll be checking him out from now on.

    5. Funny thing. I went to the bathroom after the shootout in the motel room. I was only gone for about a minute and a half but when I came back he was standing in a room full of strippers, holding a hammer. I had no idea how he’d gotten there. It was like that broken reel gag in PLANET TERROR.

    6. My theater experience was also quite different. The audience was in the palm of this movie’s hand. They laughed, applauded, gasped, and basically sat there in awed silence. I know this is New York and we’re supposed to be all sophisticated and artsy and shit but I saw it in Times Square with a lot of tourists. The movie even started a half hour late because of projection issues and we were all promised free snack bar vouchers. But when we didn’t get them when the movie was over NOBODY COMPLAINED. Everyone was too busy talking about how awesome the movie was. I’ve never seen a movie make people forget about free shit.

    7. Was that supposed to be a Statham mask?

    So yeah, good job, everyone. Heart, soul, blood, cool…the entire package. More like this, please.

  12. ***SPOILERY***

    Saw this movie twice, and the first time I saw it I definitely got a bit of a “superhero movie” vibe, especially after the elevator head smashing, when the doors close and we get a tight shot of Driver’s back and he’s breathing heavy and the giant scorpion on his back is going up and down, and just the way he’s lit and with the moody music it definitely came across as a birthing of a hero type of scene.

    Loved, loved, loved this movie. And this was a good review, too, nice work. brought up a few things I found very interesting.

  13. I loved this one, too. I actually get and dig some of what Refn and Gosling about the characters and the themes. Early in the movie, when Gosling does the car stunt for the movie, he puts on that creepy mask to look like the lead actor in the film. And, like Gosling has said, it’s like he’s adopting a persona because he wants to live his life like a character in a movie. But who is he, really? Is he the stoic, emotionless badass/professional criminal, or is he a basically decent guy willing to put himself in harm’s way to protect the people he cares for?

    I’m honestly surprised to hear that folks were really invested in the story. I thought it was a little hard to get too wrapped up, especially since Mulligan’s character is so underdeveloped and one note. She’s a good actress, but she’s not playing a character so much as a symbol and a plot device. There are a lot of cool touches, and some great performances obviously, but it’s mostly just a bunch of shopworn crime movie cliches about novices in over their heads, gangsters fucking up and having to clear house, reluctant heroes making noble sacrifices. To me, Gosling’s actions in the last act are less motivated by an honest redemptive arc, and more motivated by the fact that the protagonists in these movies HAVE to go out in a blaze of glory.

    But all that was cool with me, because it seemed like the movie was knowingly using/celebrating the cliches. Everything was so stylized and iconic, sort of a souped-up, dreamworld version of a 70s or 80s crime thriller. It’s definitely an arthouse thriller, in my mind, but it’s an arthouse thriller that loves genre cinema, not one that condescends to it. Refn has said something about being a “fetish” filmmaker, and I think what he means is that he took the crime movie genre, stripped out all the stuff that bores him (unnecessary dialogue, exposition, plot mechanics, whatever), and amped up all the stuff he loves (the atmosphere, the attitude, the music, the fashion, the violence).

    I was trying to sell this one to my brother, who didn’t care for the trailers, and the best description I could come up with was that it’s kinda like if William Friedkin had made a remake of LE SAMOURAI back in the 80’s. That’s far from a perfect description, but it has a lot of Melville’s spareness and a lot of Friedkin’s indefinable spookiness to it.

  14. Yay! I’m glad everyone enjoyed this picture as much as I did.
    Roger Ebert compared DRIVE to a film no one else has mentioned – LE SAMORAI. That kinda blew my mind.

  15. Damn Vern, sometimes I think we might have been separated at birth – except I know you’re really Harry Knowles : ) – cause you NAILED every detail that I loved about that flick (which, next to Tree of Life, is my favorite of the year so far…btw, when the HELL are you gonna review that one?!)…well, every detail except ONE: the cinematography. I was floored by the color palette of Drive…in fact, I’ve never really seen LA shot like that. As an amateur photographer (who still likes to shoot with film), I’m drawn to the cooler color temperatures of tungsten, fluorescent and sodium vapor lamps…basically, the colors of night…but I don’t think I’ve ever seen street lights and indoor lighting with hues of Drive’s quality. Here’s a really cool article with the cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel:

    http://www.hdvideopro.com/display/features/a-boy-and-his-car.html

  16. Darryll,

    Ahem. I believe I mentioned LE SAMOURAI in the post right above you, good sir.

  17. The only comment I overheard at the screening of this film that I attended was an elderly couple:

    Old guy: “That young lady sure didn’t try to hide her sexual attraction to the Driver, did she?”
    Old lady: “She wasn’t the only one!”

    I tend to agree with the old couple: the sexual tension between the two leads, and how that tension spills over to their interactions with the son and husband, were masterfully done. It’s the glue that holds the whole film together so well.

    The only complaints I have are that Cranston’s performance was a bit too “gee whiz” at times, which is a problem I often have with him, and that Brooks’ performance didn’t have the weight of Pearlman’s. He seemed a bit breezy to me. But these are just quibbles.

  18. Been really looking forward to your review of this Vern. Glad you liked it, I thought it was a great movie.

  19. People on my theater definitely enjoyed parts of it, but I also sensed some exasperation and heard a few “bad” laughs. I get it. The movie is odd and very highly, specifically stylized. It’s on a wavelength that some people are just gonna find silly.

    I heard a group of ladies talking as we were leaving, and you could tell there was a sort of “what the fuck did we just see?” vibe. One of them kept saying “oh, and you just KNEW it was gonna have an ending like that.” I’m assuming she means because SPOILERS its ambiguous if Gosling is going to live or not, and people really seem to hate even the mildest whiff of open-ended-ness. I saw MEEK’S CUTOFF earlier this year, and it has an awesome open ending that’s perfectly in sync with everything that’s occurred before, and as soon as the credits rolled you could hear a loud, collective sigh of frustration from the rest of the audience.

  20. I’m not from L.A., so I might be wrong about this, but when *SPOILER* Driver takes his neighbor and her son driving, is that the same storm drain thing that was in Terminator 2?

  21. It’s my understanding that the storm drain system in Los Angeles is fairly extensive. The monsters in the film THEM! from the 1950s also launch their attack in these storm drains, which may be something Cameron was referencing in T2.

  22. Dan – Apologies and kudos.

    Llamakazi – The LA Viaduct is one of most photographed areas of the city. Countless movies have been set there. Check out the end credits sequence from BUCKAROO BANZAI or the helicopter pad from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or the drag race from GREASE. The list goes on.

  23. I really liked the location work. Except for that montage, they never tried to make L.A. look magical. It looked like a pretty standard shitty American city, full of crappy little strip malls and way too much advertising all over the place. But the photography had a softness that kept anything from looking “gritty” (that word can only be used seriously in quotes anymore) or “realistic” (ditto). Everything that’s magical about the place is going on inside the character’s head, making even narrow grocery store aisles stocked with 14 different kinds of Tide seem to glow from within.

    I kind of think this is how movies are supposed to look, not desaturated or orange-and-teal for no reason.

  24. I really, really dug this movie. Nobody in my theater really said anything during the movie or reacted to it much, but when it was over everybody had that sleepy look of somebody just waking up from a good dream, which is usually a good sign I think (this was in Montana for what it’s worth).

    My wife and I liked the focus on his watch throughout the movie, and the way he has to reset it at the beginning of every job – like his role as a driver, the nature of his life only gives him so long in any one place (he gets five minutes for a job, and a couple of different times they mentioned he just showed up in town out of nowhere about five years ago). I liked the parallel between his professional and personal lives.

    I also liked the way he doesn’t seem to care about or use money – he doesn’t even try to quibble with Cranston about his cut of the money, doesn’t seem to spend any money or do anything except drive really, and he (SPOILER) leaves that big bag of cash just lying on the ground at the end. I like an action hero who just does what he does.

  25. Majestyk: I got a real Jarmusch vibe from Ron Pearlman’s pizza joint, particularly the mobster interiors in GHOST DOG. Although, like you say, the grittiness in DRIVE was in quotes. I think Jarmusch still manages to achieve quote-free grittiness. But that’s just what happens when you’re a Son of Lee Marvin.

  26. Shandu: I interpreted his SPOILERing the money at the end as signifying that his values or his longing rested firmly with SPOILER the kind of life represented by Carey Mulligan (a life he cannot have), not so much as an expression of some sort of Outlaw Code or quirk particular to his character; I saw him as clearly rejecting the SPOILER criminal world. Although I wouldn’t rule out your interpretation at all.

  27. “Everything that’s magical about the place is going on inside the character’s head, making even narrow grocery store aisles stocked with 14 different kinds of Tide seem to glow from within.”

    Yeah, good observation. The movie’s color palette definitely popped out in places, but most of the heightened feeling of the film was more due to deliberate framing and staging (the closeups following the back of Gosling’s jacket, or the mirror and the placement of the strippers) than fancy post production effects or any of that crap.

    It was one of those movies where the actors don’t look “natural,” but more like they are being deliberately posed for the camera, which I really enjoy when done right. And DRIVE really does it right. Helps add to that whole cinematic (as opposed to “realistic”) feel for the movie.

  28. Good review of on my top five of the year Vern old chap.I’m really glad I didn’t watch the trailer before seeing this because after watching it after viewing the film it really spoils every single action beat and plot point in the film.

    What podcast were you referring to by the way?

    And, do you guys think he dies at the end?

    I didn’t read it that way but some reviews I’ve read seem to think that’s what obviously happens. That he just drives off cruising the city and playing the music he loves because that’s how he wants to spend his last few minutes, doing the only thing he really enjoys.

    I’m with Mr. M on this one too in that I’ve never seen a Ryan Gosling film before this, I’m pretty sure he’s just done a ton of dramatic romance kind of films before this and, thankfully, my wife doesn’t make me endure those. But after this I’m really curious to see what else he has in him. I threw Blue Valentine up in the Netflix que the next day.

    One last thing, how money was that shot during the chase proceeding the botched pawn shop robbery where it goes into slow-mo and you see the car that was chasing them flip from inside Driver’s car.

  29. Jareth: I think you misunderstood me. I don’t think there’s anything “gritty” about DRIVE at all. “Gritty” is a pose, a front, an extra layer of synthetic war-and-tear sprayed on top of a Hollywood product to give it a false aura of seriousness. DRIVE doesn’t do that. It’s not trying to say “Look how much TEXTURE this world we created has! I bet this is what it looks like in the places where poor people live! This isn’t your father’s crime thriller! You can tell because the walls are painted in a mottled puke green color!” That shit has become so commonplace that it looks even phonier than that glossy TV look other movies have. DRIVE just says fuck all that and makes the world look like the world, only about 20% more vivid.

  30. Dieselboy: for me, there are two different ways to interpret the ending.

    1) He’s coming back to Carey Mulligan. I know this seems unlikely since the last shot of her indicates that she is never going to see him again. But then it cuts to him driving and, you know what, he’s headed towards a green light. Green means go. He gets to come back. Everything’s going to be okay.

    Yeah, it’s a sappy, sentimental way to look at it. But if you’re sappy and sentimental and that’s the ending you want, you can read it that way.

    2) It’s the ending of every “hero with no name” movie ever, where the hero rides off into the sunset (in this case a green light). This ending is supported by, among other things, the part where Cranston mentions Driver’s origin – basically “he rode into town one day looking for something to do.” To me, that implies that this is the circular nature of Driver’s life – going from town to town, getting involved in crazy shit, then moving on to the next town, the next place he’s needed, etc.

    Since the rest of the movie seems so aware of all the movie conventions it’s playing with, it seems like a safe bet that the ending would be a gloss on this movie convention as well.

    That said, I totally buy just about any other interpretation as well. He’s gonna spend the last minutes of his life driving around listening to 80’s synth music, because that’s what he likes to do? Sounds good to me.

  31. There’s a precedent for crime movies where the hero gets plugged, and then tries to drive somewhere before succumbing to their wounds (RIFFIFI, ASPHALT JUNGLE, more recently THE AMERICAN), so I thought maybe DRIVE was nodding to that convention. On the other hand, in those films the hero is usually more desperate, trying to find his way to salvation but falling just short, but in this one Gosling seems pretty laid back. So that might not be what they were going for.

  32. I’ve seen this twice and really love it.

    I really think the Driver is autistic or has aspbergers or something similar. There are just so many quirks to his character that just remind me of a cousin I have. His wearing his jacket even after it has been splattered in blood, for instance, really points to there being something a little off about him.

  33. I’ve been chatting with a friend about this movie for a couple weeks, and just when I start to convince both of us that maybe DRIVE isn’t all that great, I go watch it again and slap myself for not being more grateful. It’s that rare movie that envelops the viewer, insulating me from the silliness of outside discussion, defying my chatty overanalytical brain by virtue of its own reticence, its remarkable anti-dialogueness.

    Same lesson we learned from VALHALLA RISING: Fuck words. That’s what John Drive is saying when he smiles like an all-knowing dimwit – Fuck words.

  34. Are you sure he’s not saying “Shut your fucking mouth or I’ll kick your teeth and shut if for you”?

    Also, I need to own a satin jacket now. A bit darker in color (NYC, not L.A.) and probably not with a scorpion on the back. But the same cut.

    Also also, what’s up with movies setting up anecdotes and then not delivering? DRIVE had the story of the scorpion and the frog, and TRUE GRIT, which I just watched, had the story of the Midnight Caller.

    It reminds me of the tale of the samurai and the short order cook…

  35. When I was watching BLACK SWAN, there were moments when my personal internal dialogue machine was incapable of forming a single thought other than, for example, “Why did she give her that blade?, Don’t touch that blade, Please put down that blade, Not the blade, Not the face, Oh shit that hurts, Run away, Get me out of here!”
    When I watched DRIVE the first time, there were moments where I had the same type of overpowering emotional responses, but I don’t even recognize them as emotions. Rather, it’s an inhabitation of what I see & hear, “being there” combined with a cool, subtle distance achieved by cinephiliac enjoyment of the easily recognizable Mann/Friedkin/Melville/Hill filmatisticalisms.

    Despite the inescapable elements of homage & filmatistic throwback, like the awesome soundtrack, DRIVE is uniquely immersive to the nth degree (not at a BLACK SWAN level, but sort of close, good try Mr. Refn), while also, upon first viewing of course, I am left wondering what the fuck is going to happen next. “Oh shit, take the money and run, Why are you going into a basement? Didn’t you see INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS?, Why do you have a hammer?, Why are you showing him the bullet?, Now the kid is in more danger, Why are you calling a mob boss?, Man those tits are nice, Those are fake, Will the small intestine digest a bullet?, Now you’re neck deep in even more danger, We’re fucked, Run away, Get me out of here!”
    See, I go from 2nd person to 1st person, from audience member to resident of DRIVEworld. I like that.

  36. I like the quiet stuff. I like it when someone like Viggo Mortensen frowns or Clint Eastwood squints, and it tells you more than any dialogue or thumping tunes ever could. On that basis, I’m sold. Thank you Vern, you truly do tell it like it is.

  37. Thanks for the clarification, Majestyk. Would you consider TRAINING DAY one of those films that really parades around it’s “grit”?

    dieselboy: Of the few Gosling films I’ve seen, I thought LARS AND THE REAL DOLL was by far his best performance.

    Dan: I think Detective John Drive was SPOILER stabbed, not shot. He’ll be fine. A couple deep breaths, a sip of brandy. Good as new.

  38. Mr. M, the scorpion / frog thing did seem slightly off; for that to have worked it’d have to have been killing Perlman that ended up getting him fucked also, as opposed to just being another step on the road to fuckedness. It seemed kind of shoehorned in to match the jacket and water.

  39. Oh shit yeah, Jareth. I think that movie is one of the most influential in terms of the prevailing early millennial cinematic aesthetic. I can see why. People looked at it and said “It’s just the same ol’ cops and robbers shit but it won Oscars! It must be because it looks DIRTY. DIRTY = SERIOUS. Break out the grime gun and hose this set down! We’re going for the gold, baby!”

    And thus did Ethan Hawke’s career receive its second act.

  40. Wait, there really is a story of the scorpion and the frog? Tell it to me!

    *breaks out S’mores fixins*

  41. Vern says Oscar Isaac is like “a master of playing the evil nice guy.” You’d enjoy his work in AGORA, a severely underrated film. He’s not evil, but he displays conflicting emotions & beliefs in a way that makes it suspenseful every time he’s about to say something. He issues threats with soul-stirring force, professes love like a pathetic yet confident freshman seeking the attention of the head cheerleader, and displays political-religious strength & weakness as both a leader and as a pariah. It’s great stuff. The scene where he publicly woos Hypatia with his music is amazing.

    He was also good in another unfairly overlooked movie, BODY OF LIES, but his sheer appearance (dark skin & hair) did most of the work for him for that character. He doesn’t do anything outstanding in Ridley Scott’s movie. That was just good casting.

  42. Jareth,

    Oh, I know he was stabbed, but as we had seen earlier in the film, Bernie Rose was a pro with a blade, and the dude was definitely aiming to kill, not maim.

  43. Scorpion* and frog at river, both want to get across.
    Scorpion: “Yo frog, carry me across this river”
    Frog: “No fucking way, you’re a scorpion and you’ll sting me and we’ll both drown”
    Scorpion: “No I won’t”
    Frog: “OK so”
    Halfway across, scorpion stings frog.
    Frog: “What the fuck, now we’re both going to drown”
    Scorpion: “What did you expect? I’m a fucking scorpion.”

    *an actual scorpion, not the ninja from Mortal Kombat

    It’s actually an even worse allegory than I thought, Perlman wasn’t going out of his way to help Driver only to get himself killed the process. Probably more appropriate for Carlito’s way or some such, where a favour’ll kill you faster than a bullet.

  44. Some quibbles and stuff you might only notice on repeat viewings:

    -The scorpion jacket is awesome, but it doesn’t make sense that the blood spots on the left sleeve disappear after the elevator scene and it doesn’t make sense that he’d not get noticed wearing the stained jacket in the restaurant at the end. You’d think, in L.A. especially, the Magic Johnson rule would be in effect and someone would call in the guy covered in blood.

    -The bottom third of the window of Nino’s pizza joint is translucent, so I am puzzled by how lightly the mobsters treat the act of leaving a bleeding corpse there for L.A. passersby to see.

    -Great character moment: Ron Perlman is laughing his ass off in slow motion while the skanky lady next to him looks nonplussed at best & disgusted at worst. He must have just told a dirty joke that only he thinks is funny, and we see the aftermath. It perfectly reinforces his personality as it shows, for the 3rd or 4th time in the movie, that he is a no-class dirtbag whose money is the only thing that keeps people close to him.

    -I wish Detective John Drive’s rampage didn’t remind me of what I think is the worst, or most poorly handled, aspect of the end of THE DEPARTED.

    -Somwhat like how I felt about the near-ending of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which denied us the fun of a shootout with uzis & angry cartel bagmen & Josh Brolin at a cheap motel or whatever, I wish the final confrontation/knifing in DRIVE had been more of an action scene.

  45. Dan P, on the Bernie Rose stabbing – first couple were on unsuspecting victims. Gosling was expecting it so it’s not necessarily going to be a fatal wound. Possibly he’s taking it willingly so he can have the heroic film type death (that’s if you’re taking the he sees himself as being in a film interpretation anyways).

  46. Jareth & Majestyk & Dieselboy : You should watch Half Nelson. It gave Gosling an Oscar nomination and it’s the kind of movie that without Gosling’s performance would not be as good.

  47. I almost didn’t see this movie because of Mulligan. She looks a lot like a very important ex-girlfriend and always seems to play girls who are just my type. It sucks to grow attached to a fictional character because she reminds you of a person from your real past.

  48. I don’t know, unless he gets that thing treated he’s not just going to be able to shrug it off, I don’t think. I mean maybe he was driving to a hospital at the end, but it didn’t seem like it.

    Either way, it’s a very fatalistic ending, which I always enjoy. I really like the moment at the end, where they are going out to his car, and it cuts back to earlier with them still sitting at the table, and they both exchange these looks that seem to acknowledge that each one of them knows what’s coming. It’s stupid and they’re both probably going to die, but what else can either of them do at this point? Theur hands are tied.

  49. The ending of Taxi Driver is NOT IN TRAVIS BICKLE’S HEAD. That’s such a lame reading. The ending of the movie is real. The world around Bickle is so fucked up that he is viewed as a hero. And then he Rejects Cybil Shepard.

  50. I haven’t seen any suggestion that any of it is in his head; more that he’s acting like he’s a character in a film.

    Also – I kind of assumed the bloodstains were left on the jacket because he wasn’t planning on living long enough for it to matter if anyone had noticed or not.

  51. As far as the whole Frog and Scorpion thing, I think it’s the driver’s way of telling Brooks to be cool. He’s telling him, “I want to work this out with you, so I’ll meet with you. But, if you sting me, we’re both going to drown.”

  52. Majestyk: I agree with your interpretation of Standard, but because of the situation and also because this is a movie you can’t help but keep thinking there might be an implied threat behind everything he does. And I love that ultimately it turns out there’s not.

    I remember over in Russellville, old Charlie Bowles, about fifteen years ago… One night, he finished dinner, and he excused himself from the table. He went out to the garage, and got himself a hacksaw. Then he went back into the house, kissed his wife and his two children goodbye, and then he proceeded to…

    Dieselboy: The Sound of Young America had a good interview with Refn, that was the podcast I referred to that played part of the song. I also listened to Refn on The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell.

  53. I love the hell out of this movie, but I actually thought it moved a touch too fast after the botched heist, and lost a little of that magic stillness before it. Obviously the stakes and tension heightens but I kinda prefer the first half to the second. Need to see it again to find out.

  54. Nicely done, Vern. Nicely done.

  55. So Standard surprises you by not being a raging asshole. Even though he misremembers his wife’s age and acts like a dick in the hallway, he turns out to have his heart sort of in the right place.

    The progression of Driver’s character surprised me in a similar manner, and not in the obvious “oh, loss of innocence, this guy is actually a monster, I can’t believe Viggo Mortensen is really a Philly gangster who knows how to chop a guy’s nose to a pulp” kind of way. For me, if you buy into some of the interpretation Gosling relates in interviews, the Travis Bickle/Don Quixote transformation into a sad alternate reality occurs when he has his superhero fantasy summarily squashed by the lowlife during the heist planning meeting by the reservoir/lake.

    (The lakeside scene reminds me of something from at least one of the PUSHERs, by the way, iIrc. It also seems like how Michael Mann uses the sea in both MANHUNTER and THE INSIDER and similarly expansive sea-like vistas in HEAT to suggest a man doing deep thinking on a tough decision.)

    Remember, the very beginning of the movie, Driver is telling the cell phone in his Mr. Cool Criminal voice how his customer has exactly 5 minutes, etc., and he sets himself up as a Transporter-like professional. Then later, when he says the same thing verbatim to the crew for the pawn shop heist, the tone is totally changed. He’s not in superhero mode. His words seem hollow, stupid, self-endangering. And sure enough, the bald shithead responds to Driver’s superhero/Transporter spiel by giving him the hand, with a side of “Fuck Off!”

    To further contribute to this theme of awesome fantasy type things not being awesome in a more “realistic,” “gritty” world, Christina Hendricks is made to look like dirty nasty white trash! She’s not sexy at all in this movie, and, after the opening third of the movie, neither is Driver’s superhero version of himself.

  56. I don’t think Standard misremembered his wife’s age. I think she lied to him because she was underage and he went to jail fairly soon after and never corrected him.

  57. I dunno, Mr. M.
    You think he never glimpsed a photo id, like maybe when they married or checked into a hospital to deliver their kid or processed their kids’ birth certificate, and put it together that the day they met she was 17? Or he’s one of those people who are really bad at simple math?

  58. Majestyk: I can’t believe you didn’t know the Scorpion/Frog parable. Even the [whatever] quadrant knows about that one because Captain Janeway brought it with her. It’s used so much in movies and television that I was very pleased Detective John Drive didn’t tell it again.

    This doesn’t mean that I think less of you. I interpret it as you being so deep into the land of cool that all this mainstream bullshit doesn’t reach you. Sort of like Sun Ra.

    Munch: I’m one of those guys who thinks HALF NELSON is way too highly regarded. But I’d totally watch a sequel where Gosling’s dead zombie cat comes back to whoop his narcissistic ass.

  59. Adored this movie. And want to see it again and again. But don’t want to wear it out. Dilemma….but one I can live with.

    My favourite type of film. Just fantastically atmospheric. Brilliant. Enough said.

  60. I did not particularly get the sense that they knew each other too well. But either interpretation is possible. I just like mine because it makes her a little sassier and more wicked than she’d be otherwise.

  61. Jareth: I do know that story, but I’m not sure I associated it with frogs and scorpions. There are probably a million different variations. In my household it was always the werewolf and the unicorn. You can see where the confusion comes in.

    But yes, I scoff at your mainstream. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must listen to this album by this new band I just heard of called Pearl’s Jam.

  62. When you case a little pixie doll like Carey Mulligan to play the wife of a guy just getting out of prison, a lot of work has to be done to make the coupling look convincing. I think DRIVE did pretty well in fostering a sense of plausibility in that regard, better, at any rate, than Eric Idle and Catherine Zeta Jones in SPLITTING HEIRS.

  63. And better than Majestyk’s werewolf and unicorn. That romance was doomed from the start. No one fucks with Robocop’s unicorn.

  64. I like being clueless to mainstream shit, er, I mean, I am also too cool for mainstream shit. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    For example, I’m vaguely aware of an internet & music magazine fanbase for the band Wilco, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Wilco song before this week. Due to boredom and a desire to expand horizons, I clicked on their album at the top of the list of new releases and listened to it all day yesterday. It’s pretty fucking good, and I love not knowing shit about them. First new album I’ve heard in a long time that has more than 1-2 good tracks.

    It goes hand in hand with my theory that tabula rasa makes almost everything better. It’s also why I always try to show up for a cineplex movie 15 minutes late so I miss the infuriating commercials & overstuffed trailers.

  65. You know you want to fuck that unicorn, Jareth.

  66. I liked the jacket. I thought it was almost too close to the one Kurt Russell wore in Deathproof though. But I am sure Tarantino lifted that from some other movie I haven’t seen.

    I liked Ryan Gosling’s role. I think the blend of Mcqueen/The Terminator that Vern is talking about is an accurate description of it. I would throw in Jeff Bridges as the alien in Starman for good measure.

    There was a lot I enjoyed about this movie and some of it I couldn’t get behind. The violence was not interesting to me. The mobster plots were pretty dull, to be honest. They felt cliche. Albert Brooks was interesting but when isn’t he? Just great casting right there. But the violence…man. Way too out of left field for me. Way too sensual, almost exploitative. Didn’t buy the “reality” of it. The most interesting dynamic was between Driver and the new guy who felt he was encroaching on his woman. And then it’s completely abandoned in favor of this mobster story that was less interesting to me.

  67. SPOILERS

    I did not find the ending to be ambiguous about his living or dying. I thought that was the whole point of the excruciatingly long shot where you sit there holding your breath hoping he is gonna blink. Basically just a reversal of the standard movie cliche of someone finally opening their eyes after their fake death so we now they are going to be fine.

    For those looking for more Gosling excellence I’d recommend THE BELIEVER. His most intense and disturbing performance of the ones I’ve seen.

  68. Spoil: the frog/scorpion story has been discussed but not in relation to the ending – in the frog/scorpion story presumably both creatures die.

  69. Did anyone else enjoy the meta moment when Bernie (Albert Brooks) describes his business history?  
    He says he produced movies in the ’80s.  

    “One critic called them European.  I thought they were shit.”  

    Made me laugh, but I can’t fully explain why.  
    Maybe Refn prefers working in the USA rather than Europe.  Perhaps he will continue to make glossy movies with a good share of slow motion and montage scored by full songs.  If that is his idea of the non-European aesthetic, I approve.  Gloss is good.  

  70. So, I am not attacking any person’s tastes, but how does a movie like this and Black Swan even enter the same conversation? Black Swan plays on a noise scale of 1 to 10 at an 11. Drive plays on a noise scale at about a 2.5. I mean that literally and figuratively.

    Drive, I was engaged and loved the quiet moments and loved the film. Black Swan, I was assaulted aurally and narratively and never allowed to develop my own opinions. One of which would have been that it played by the Del Toro rule book, i.e. so long as the fantasy was playing, the real world did not exist, but as soon as the film needed drama, here came the clumsy real world with people that should have been acting totally different in the real world than they actually did.

    Drive created its own cinematic universe, let the audience populate it with their own id and ran circles around most films I have seen in a long time.

  71. Finally finished my own review (http://demonsresume.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/movie-review-drive-2011/) so now I can read yours — nice work, as usual, although I have to cop to using the word “existential” in my rundown. I do feel DRIVE qualifies as existentialism, but hope I’m not one of those sad souls who needs to justify liking a badass movie by using polysyllabic terms (like “existentialism” or “polysyllabic”.) Then again, I’d also describe SPIDER-MAN 2 using that same definition, so maybe not everybody will want to put stock in my opinion.

  72. Jon, you are totally right to call Spider-Man 2 polysyllabic. I wasn’t sure if I was on board at first, but then I did some research. It turns out that Spider-Man 2 does, in fact, contain three syllables, four if you count the numeral. Nice catch.

  73. By the by, the REAL punchline to the Scorpion/Frog thing is that the frog cries out, “Why have you stung me! Now we will surely both die” and the Scorpion said, “It is in my nature.”

    The ‘it is in my nature’ bit is the essence of the story.

  74. Mouth, I think that European / shit comment is saying more that he wasn’t interested what he was producing for anything other than business reasons. (Much like Michael Caine and the house that Jaws: Revenge bought him.) He’d probably have dismissed Drive as being shit / European also.

  75. Well, MDM, these are the only 2 recent star-cast movies I can think of that convinced my brain to do nothing but become part of their stories. Tone & volume has nothing to do with it for me, though I see why you’d mention that.
    I don’t have the same idea as most people when they say a movie “lets you sit & think” because a lot of it is technically quiet or slow, and I don’t understand how people say a good movie “assaults” them. Intensity is intensity, whether the speakers are blaring or the camera is shaking or not.

    Works the same way with books for me — I recognize that Edgar Huntly, Jude the Obscure, The Age of Innocence, American Psycho, and An Instance of the Fingerpost are wildly different books, but I readily equate my experiences with them. They are equally enjoyable because the immersion & intensity they achieve are equal.

  76. I think the ending is a nod to SHANE (along with the basic storyline). Luckily, the kid wasn’t there shouting “Driver! Come back, Driver!” That would’ve been dumb.

    Fun facts: Refn doesn’t know how to drive, and is COLOR-BLIND.

  77. Mouth: What happens in Enumclaw stays in Enumclaw.

    Devil: I see your point. Pearlman and Brooks were so verbal in the movie that they seemed to intrude on the spell that the rest of the movie was trying to cast.

    David Lambert: Is Refn completely color-blind, or just red/green color-blind?

  78. Not sure, he just said in an interview that he was color-blind. He could be lying but it didn’t read that way.

  79. It’s possible that Refn just isn’t able distinguish between colors under lighting conditions when color vision isn’t normally impaired, like at night. That’s fairly common.

    That’s one of the tests they give you when you want to be a cop. Cops need to be able to distinguish between the Wolverine’s yellow jumpsuit and Magneto’s purple leisure suit.

    It’s my understanding that total color-blindness is rare.

  80. Here’s the excerpt:

    Refn: Well, I’m color blind so I can only see contrast colors, so everything in the film has to have that contrast. Most of the film is shot with wide-angle lenses, like Valhalla Rising, and Bronson for that matter. Each movie I want to see the background more than anything else, you know, the framing of an image. I want you to see what’s behind the actor, what’s going on behind the character action.

    http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/feature/interview-nicolas-winding-refn/274

  81. Can’t stop thinking about this movie. Actually, not even thoughts. Can’t stop feeling this movie.

    It reminds me of my favorite poem, by Leonard Cohen.

    THE REASON I WRITE

    The reason I write
    is to make something
    as beautiful as you are

    When I’m with you
    I want to be the kind of hero
    I wanted to be
    when I was seven years old
    a perfect man

    who kills

    One of my closest childhood friends recently wrote on my wife’s facebook that her two and a half year old daughter told her, “if there’s bad guys you can shoot them, Mommy.” She told her daughter, “Mommy really doesn’t like guns.” Her two and a half year old daughter said, “That’s okay Mommy. I can shoot them for you.”

    There’s something about the need to protect at all costs. Everyone knew (or was) that guy in high school, probably played Magic the Gathering or wore a Matrix coat or really, really liked to talk like life was a Renaissance fair and he’d get so wound up when girls would date, hell, not even an asshole, just some normal dude. A jock, a brain, just a plain old cute guy who maybe wasn’t so sensitive. The phrase, “if I had a girl like that I would WORSHIP HER,” seemed to come up fairly often among those type guys in those years. They never seemed to get why that was so goddamn creepy and off-putting, and now I wonder if they ever figured it out…

    But I understand the impulse.

  82. So weird, you mention ‘The Limey’, I watched it on Monday, and the next night I watched ‘Drive’ and the similarities are striking.

    If ‘The Limey’ was the arthouse version of ‘taken’ or ‘deathwish’ then this is surely the arthouse ‘fast and furious’ (but admittedly not really that similar)?

  83. I read somewhere that Drive was written in the early noughties to cash in on the succes of The Fast and The Furious. It don`t think it was ever meant to be an “arthouse” thriller before Refn came abord.

    I actually don`t percieve as an arthouse movie. If it had been made in the late seventies or early eighties, it would have been thought of as a good thriller. Is The Driver or Thief arthouse? Don`t get me wrong, I love Drive and I think that Refn is a brilliant director, but I don`t see any (in a lack of a better word…) artistic subtext in his movies. Driver (and appearently Valhalla Rising) is really good at engaging the audiences imagination because it dares to be quiet and suggestive, but that doesn`t mean that it actually has any profound subtext. I like that everybody reads a lot of meaning into VR, Bronson and Drive, but does the movies actually support any of those theories? When fans of Refns movies tries to find a deeper meaning with them, they usually refer to snippets of interviews with Refn about his intentions with the movies, not the actual movies.

    I`m not putting Refn down, I`ve been a fan since Pusher, and his Pusher trilogy and Bleeder actually has something interesting going on beneath the surface, but I just don`t get Bronson, Fear X and VR. I love Drive, because it`s a brilliant directed b-movie, not because it`s intelligent or profound or stuff. I mean, that story with the Scorpion must be the most used methaphor in thrillers ever.

    Oh boy, this is gonna be a long one, but three small stories about Refn from his native country…

    1) When Refn made Pusher, he wanted to do a Woo-inspired shoot `em up, with gansters jumping through the air in slomo and both guns blasting, but the actors just couldn`t be bothered, and started improvising and rewriting their dialogue. Refn realised that their take on the material was way more interesting and went with his actors version of the story, thus creating one of the most realistic portrayals of crime in Copenhagen ever. (this is not facts, but the impression I got from watching behind the scenes documentarys, his original Pusher-short and listening to commentarys.)

    2) Refn says a lot of stuff that doesn`t make sense. He had a breakdown on national televison a couple of years ago, in a series of interviews on a alternative talkshow, talking about his father and his emotionel problems and so forth. The thing is, nobody knows if his breakdown was an elaborate joke. Not even some of his closests friends (and I asked them, since I ,like the rest of the country, couldn`t figure it out). Refn likes to mytholize his public persona, just like Lars Von Trier, and most people who knows Von Trier knows that you shouldn`t take everything he says for face value.

    3) Lars Von Trier, the biggest, best and most important director from Refns home country. No other director in our time (from Denmark) has had the same succes as Trier and most directors who wants to become as popular as Trier was in the eighties and nineties, tries to mimic his knack for manipulating the press, population and the buisness. Refn even grew up with Trier as a friend of the household (Refns father was co-director and editor and good friends with Trier on several of his projects from `93 till today). I wouldn`t be suprised if Refn is very inspired with Triers way with the press and especially his cryptic statements about the meaning, purpose and inspiration for his own movies. Which are often (hilarous) bullshit.

    In conclusion, I`m really proud (yay Denmark!) and excited about Refn becoming a respected director and he really deserves it, but I`m puzzled that people read so much subtext into his movies. He is a master of creating atsmophere, shocking violence, directing actors and engaging his audiences imagination, but all the clever subtext that people get from his movies, seems more like his reflection on his work than his actual intentions with the movie.

  84. @ Darryll
    Yeah, I recall all those particular scenes from those movies, but it was the way the viaduct was lit in Drive mixed with some of the camera angles Refn chose that brought me straight to Terminator 2. Thinking about it now, I can’t help but draw the parallel to T2 and how Vern describes the Driver, as having some of that machine personality.

    I’ve seen Drive three times so far, and I have a few more trips I want to make because I want to show a few more people and get their reactions. I can’t get this movie out of my head, and I’m really psyched about what Refn does in the future. There definitely is an evolution to him as a director, and if he did Drive on a budget of 15 million dollars (according to Box Office Mojo), then I’m curious what he can do with a little bit more.

    One of my few complaints about the film is that *Spoiler* the dispatching of Nino felt underwhelming to me. Kind of like what Mouth was saying about the final duel between the Driver and Bernie Rose, where it could’ve done with more action. I felt like a fade away shot of him drowning Nino was too easy. I liked the aesthetics of the scene, I liked the sweeping light (was that from a lighthouse? I missed the source) that kept passing over everything (made me think of the final confrontation in Heat between Lt. Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley), I liked the mask and the tie to Michael Myers. It was a great extension of how far gone the Driver is at this point in the story since his encounter in the elevator. He is willing to kill anybody that threatens Irene and Benicio and he will even become a monster to do it. But I kept thinking to myself, “Doesn’t Nino have a gun? Don’t guys like that always carry a gun in their jackets?” And what was Nino thinking going towards the water? What a strange idea. After the guy in the elevator, the dude that got the shower curtain rod in the throat, Nino got off too easily. I do however, love the build up of this scene. That amazing song by Riz Ortolani after the Driver discovers Shannon’s fate. Wow.

    I had Mouth’s reaction to the Driver/Bernie Rose showdown the first time I saw the movie, but on my last two viewings I’ve really liked the poetry of the structure. I like how they both see what’s coming, and we have cuts back to their Close-Ups while the Driver is popping the trunk. As movie goers we know what’s coming, and as characters so do they. And it’s exactly what Driver wants, this final, possibly fatal showdown that will complete his fairy tale. To paraphrase what he says to Irene just before the elevator scene, “You could take the money and go away. I could come with you. Protect you.”

    I’m of the opinion that a lot of the soundtrack is in the Driver’s head. Refn has used this tactic before in Bronson, when Charles is in shackles and being lead by guards through the hallway while all the prisoners cheer him on through their cages and there’s this celebratory symphony playing while he soaks it all up.

  85. In the original script Driver assault Nino’s house, and shot a lot of his henchmen before it ended on the beach like in the film. There was also another car chase and there was bank heist instead of pawn shop robbery. But the original script was suppose to be a big $50 million blockbuster. But the surprise in the script is that a character in the script died that didn’t die in the film, and vica versa. Which I think made the film more conventional, as in the script it felt more braver, and a little more depressing.

  86. Does anyone know where can I find Refn’s first short film, the one that got the PUSHER producers interested?

  87. Wonderful review Vern. I especially loved your % description of the driver—you really nailed him. Of course, the rest of the review was no slouch either (especially the audience reactions; at least my screening didn’t have to contend with that; it was practically empty).

    I also hear you regarding the overuse of existentialism to describe each and every movie out there, but I’m going to disagree that using it to describe DRIVE isn’t appropriate.

    First, I get what you’re saying about certain kinds of people who use the word to qualify what they consider to be “guilty pleasures” to culture vultures and similar souls long dead to the simple thrill of a genre movie executed with finesse and passion. I’m not one of those people, and I think DRIVE succeeds brilliantly as a work of entertainment first and foremost, a smart piece of filmmaking that does so much with images (we learn all we need to know about Ron Perlman’s character when we see him laughing beside the bored, blonde hostess in the pizzeria) and sound (I bought the soundtrack as soon as I stepped out of the theater) that there’s no need to go spelunking for fancy words to dress it up for your stuffy friends. But I have to confess: I do love a genre film that has something extra to offer, that subtext throbbing below the slick 80’s Mann surface; and I think DRIVE is one of those movies.

    I think the problem people have with existentialism is the belief that implies a degree of navel gazing on the part of the protagonist, as though the Driver is thinking at every stop light “how did the choices I make lead me to this intersection, across from a cop that’s just clocked me?” I don’t think that the Driver is that introspective. Quite the opposite; I think he’s driven to act, and act constantly, by a deep seeded violence within him, a violence that may stem from damage inflicted on him in his past, a damage that creates a mental block that doesn’t allow him to interact with people in mundane, regular ways. He’s narrowed his life down to very limited set of choices; to stop and think would be on par with opening a door to things he’d rather not consider, so he dresses up in a persona that allows him to control the anger, to channel the capacity for violence into activities that flirt with their realization without ever really committing the act (that’s why he reminds me of Joey from A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE; not from any particular trait, like he’s a gangster on the lamb, but because he has this almost instinctual ability to inflict massive amounts of damage in an almost preconditioned, mechanical way). This guy takes all the movies he’s ever seen, and compiles them into this archetype designed to keep him cool and aloof from everything that might bring that ferocious need to inflict pain out into the open.

    More than his need to act constantly though is a central idea that really hammers home the existentialism: that through his actions he maintains his identity. By acting within this preconceived notion of the cool, collected getaway driver enough times, with enough commitment and will, he will become that thing completely. What made HISTORY OF VIOLENCE interesting wasn’t that a mobster could hide out in as small town for so many years, but that he could convince even himself that he was a different person.

    And like Joey, the Driver’s final ingredient comes from someone outside himself. By rescuing his neighbor and her kid he’s finally able to step into the hero role, but unlike Joey he doesn’t get to play out this fantasy for years. By leaving his conditioned routine he allows for moments where the world will challenge his preconceived notions of right and wrong (i.e. his great anger at the child receiving the bullet, despite his driving for robberies for who knows how long and thus being familiar with the criminal element) and bring the violence back out again. How he executes the violence implies a level of intimacy with the act. No guns once we’re past the hotel room, but instead head stomping, Perlman drowning acts that leave very little room between him and his victim (and I love how you thought of Michael Myers for that later scene; I thought of Jason Voorhees myself). His impulse to get in close and personnel is part stylistic choice (a way of differentiating the violence of this picture with everything else coming out this summer) but also a reveal; he needs to feel the act, to embrace it thoroughly. No cultivated persona can completely submerge it.

    I think themes like this will only grow with time, and that makes repeat viewings all the more satisfying.

  88. Mouth,

    Thanks for the insight. I really am just trying to understand. I enjoyed the concept but was so turned off by the execution that I loathed Black Swan on a very primal level. I love Drive on that same primal level and for the past year or so, I have been trying to understand the allure of Black Swan, all the while doubting my own tastes as I seemed to be the only one that actively despised it while liking most of the same movies as those who loved it.

  89. dna: You touch on something that kind of fascinates me about movies: the qualities that we use to describe films are actually subject to great instability over time. BULLITT was seen as a classy but standard dumb action film when it was released, but by today’s sensibilities, it’s almost as much of an “art film” as DRIVE.

    When DIE HARD was released, critics were tripping over themselves to dismiss and ridicule the film while stuff like THE ACCUSED was simply accepted as classic filmatism. These days, DIE HARD is the undisputed classic and THE ACCUSED is generally seen as manipulative Oscar bait.

  90. Yeah, I wouldn`t hesitate to call Heat, Thief, Lady Snowblood, Total Recall or Bullit actionmovies about existentialism, but I would think of them as arthouse-movies. I do see a running thread in Refns work about machocism and masculinety (especially since a lot of the characters tries to be “real macho-men” and usually looses everything because of it. That goes for Pusher 1-3, Bleeder, Bronson and Driver. I haven`t seen his Miss Marple episode.) Still, it doesn`t mean that it`s intended subtext from Refn, more his personality who shines through his art. I can easely make a case for Heat, Thief, Lady Snowblood etc having intended and meaningfull subtexts, but I just can`t say the same for Refns movies. Hmm, that kind of reminds me of David Lynch`s non-specific approach to filmmaking..

    Anyway, I`m not certain I`m right, especially after reading some of the comments in this thread. It`s interesting stuff, that`s for sure..

  91. dna,

    I’m not sure people are calling DRIVE an “arthouse thriller” because it’s deep or profound or anything (although I do think there’s a lot of interesting subtext to chew on), but because it has such a bold and accomplished aesthetic to it. Most action movies and thrillers, even very good ones, don’t usually create such a vivid and unique cinematic world (even if DRIVE’s is heavily informed by other, similar films). Myself, I saw it as kind of a weird, exciting, but dream-like riff on crime movie conventions. DRIVE is a great crime movie, plus it evokes a rich, iconic atmosphere.

    As for THE DRIVER, I can’t speak for the consensus at the time, but I did recently read Roger Ebert’s original review and he definitely treats it as something of an art film. Interesting thing is, he dismisses the artsy stuff as silly and reliant on weak symbolism, but praises the action scenes.

  92. – jareth

    What really ticles me is that good oldfashioned storytelling is suddenly percieved as “arty” and “meaningfull”. Now, good storytelling in my opinion is all about making the audience ask questions to the story and engage their imagination. Older movies (now often percived as slow or boring) actually gives their audience a chance to ponder on what has happened or what will happen next, instead of constantly hitting their audience with constant exposition or action. When I sit in a cinema and a movie slows down, the audience usually starts checking their cellphones, instead of wondering about what is happening in the characters minds.

    When I watched Drive, several members of the the audience was talking about why the sound was so low during the first four minutes, concluding that the operator might have made a mistake. I mean, what the fuck? Is it so really so unusual that a movie has quiet moments that the audience automatically concludes that something is wrong with the sound-system in the theater?

  93. – dan

    Hmm, you might be right. Maybe I just think that everybody calls it an arthouse-thriller because it won the directors price at cannes..

  94. dna,

    There’s no doubt that people just aren’t used to silence in movies any more. Sometimes there’s almost a palpable tension in the theater when there’s a movie with a long silent or quiet section. You can tell people are getting bored, or frustrated, or they think something’s wrong. I can understand this (even if I don’t always share the sentiment) when it comes to overtly difficult, artsy films (Tarkovsky or whatever), but it really does baffle me during something like this, where the silence often comes during a suspenseful, well paced sequence.

  95. Just a thought: I suspect the huge Scorpion on Det. Drive’s jacket is actually a visual reference to a somewhat similar driver and jacket in Kenneth Anger’s SCORPIO RISING, particularly given how prominent the music was in DRIVE (arguably, SCORPIO RISING pioneered the idea of using pop music as a score).

  96. Ghost: Is that the script from when it was gonna be a Neil Marshall movie starring Hugh Jackman?

    Bad Seed: I don’t mean to dismiss the idea of it being existential. I even said in the review that those interpretations are legit. I just noticed that for a certain type of person that isn’t as open to “lowbrow” movies as we are here then saying something is “existential” makes it okay. Like you figure your friends would turn their nose up if you said you liked an old Chuck Norris movie but if you somehow convinced them it was an existential Chuck Norris movie then they’d be okay with it. Take that as a humorous observation about human nature, not an attack on anybody who says anything is existential.

  97. Clearly, the only Chuck Norris movie that could qualify as existential is THE OCTAGON, in which you can hear the horrifying, echoing void that is Chuck’s internal monologue. The true octagon is the mind.

  98. An existential Chuck Norris movie? I think I just felt my dick move.

  99. Because of the music, Det. John “Driver” Drive’s jacket and gloves, and a few other touches, it honestly took me a good half hour to realize this movie wasn’t supposed to be set in the 80’s. In fact, I don’t think I realized for sure until Albert Brooks’ character made reference to producing movies in the 80’s.

  100. More observations on DRIVE that I haven’t yet noticed in any reviews or comments:

    –Driver’s cars feature the tachometer more prominently than the speedometer. I guess he has a variable supercharger/turbocharger, something he can turn on & off and change whether or not it is measured in the driver’s display, because his tack reads 0 RPM when he appears to be driving about 30-40 mph and then later the tack reads a steady 1100 RPM as he pulls into a parking spot.
    Whatever, it’s still a sign of automotive expertise & coolness to ignore and even to hide the speedometer and prefer to trust your tachometer.

    –When Irene takes her car to the garage, Shannon remarks, “Oh, all our bays are full right now” or something like that. There are no available spots to put her car. After they make arrangements for Driver to take her home, Shan says, “Ok, we can push it up here. Push her into three.” He’s talking about placing the car in slot 3 of his garage business to do repairs, but obviously the syllables he utters refer to Refn’s PUSHER trilogy. That sneaky fuck.

    . – – I wonder if one of the old pictures on the wall of Irene’s apartment or something was a reference to someone named Bronson. Maybe. There are lots of “Bleeders” in DRIVE. There’s briefly a “One-Eye,” due to the forking. Alright, I’m stretching it, but this reminds me of how in NEVER BACK DOWN 2 there’s a quick shot where you can see the cover of an issue of a Spawn funny book, a reference to the director’s older work.

    . – – You could easily say that DRIVE ends with Driver going toward the Angel of Death with blood on his hands, more references to Refn’s PUSHERs.

    –We all seem to agree on the Mann influence in the city scenes, the simmering quiet-slow moments punctuated by loud-fast action, and the driving shots
    (By the way, this is still the best 5 minutes in tv history when you add Crockett’s conversation with his traitor-friend leading up to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26z1nlxPtkI ),
    and most of us love it, but leave it to me to spot a visual homage to a “small” moment in Mann’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. I don’t think it’s a minor moment at all. In fact, I think it’s the first part of the best cinematic depiction of 2 people falling in love I’ve ever seen, but I acknowledge that most people aren’t affected by it the same way they are impacted by LotM’s scalpings & the sacrifices & the waterfalls.
    So anyway, when Sergeant Drive finishes his glass of water in Irene’s apartment, there’s an exchange of simple close-ups that is almost exactly like the romantic moment in Mann’s movie when Nathaniel makes Cora Munroe smile in Fort William Henry.
    Irene’s eyes are pointed down, then she succumbs to the stare of Driver, reluctantly but gracefully grins despite herself, holds the look long enough to make the audience feel it, then modestly looks down again. It’s a total copy of Cora’s moment when Hawkeye stares at her with his first overt sign of infatuation.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=pnQ7l7UhQTM
    Ryan Gosling’s intent smile both precedes & reciprocates the girl’s and obviates the need for him to copy Daniel Day-Lewis’s words, “I’m looking at you, miss.”
    This is plagiarism that I like.

    –Vern will like this one:
    When John Drive is parked at Nino’s pizza joint, he goes to his car trunk to don his mask. Just above him in the shot is a either a billboard or a big storefront sign. It has about 4 variations of the Goodwill logo ( similar to this: http://i55.tinypic.com/16t6wz.png ) and it reads “Goodwill. Halloween.”
    Brilliant.

  101. GOOD WILL HALLOWEEN… That was that Gus Van Sant-directed crossover sequel from the late 90s where we discover that Michael Myers is actually a math prodigy, right?

  102. “Clearly, the only Chuck Norris movie that could qualify as existential is THE OCTAGON, in which you can hear the horrifying, echoing void that is Chuck’s internal monologue. The true octagon is the mind.”
    I recently watched the Nostalgia Critic’s review of SIDEKICKS, and since it’s about a kid suffering delusions (which feature Chuck Norris) and overcoming physical and mental barriers to attain his goals, you could argue that’s THAT’s sorta existential. If you were on crack.

  103. Point taken and concurred Vern. As a guy brewing an existential take I read that last part of the review and went, “well shit, better do some framing to make sure this candle lights right,” but I agree with your point absolutely; there are people who can’t bring themselves to enjoy anything genre without dressing it up in allegory, metaphor, or ironically detached scorn. In some ways they’re even worse than those who don’t have the patience or even temperament to sit for the quiet moments; at least these folks know not what they do. They remind me of Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter when she says, “I’m ignorant, not stupid.” With the latter I hope they’ll learn and grow with time even as the former takes all that learning to mint a cultural currency that depreciates as soon as their references turn stale: but I don’t get depressed, instead I come here!

    In fact, I find the conversation around this film fascinating. First comes the outrageous hype from Cannes, and then the vicious backlash from mouth breathers hyperventilating on their own choked confusion, and now this equilibrium where people like us go back to see it again and again to find various interpretations to this thing that welcomes multiple takes. This film has legs, there’s no denying that!

  104. That opening chase scene was magic. The Carpenter-esque score by Badamalenti was brilliant, kicked the thing into ‘full drive’ for me. You don’t see that kind of style often anymore.

  105. I was so excited for this – but it really didn’t work for me.

    I totally get why people loved it – it looks and feels gorgeous – but I found it completely empty. It played with all the genre tropes and iconography but not in a way that revealed anything interesting to me – and it was devoid of the base satisfactions that a solid genre flick would at least attempt to provide.

    I don’t want to sound overly harsh. I was digging it – but then some time after the hammer scene I had a sneaking feeling that turned into a realization that it was just never going to amount to anything.

    It felt like a good 40 minutes of story crammed into a 100 minute movie. I love Albert Brooks, and I guess I liked his performance – but i didn’t buy into the crime plot in this at all – it all felt so tiny and coincidental.

    I dunno I guess it felt like Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance or Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road – Artists condescending to do genre – but not doing it anywhere near as well as the real guys.

    Sorry to piss on everyone’s chips but I had a hard time with the music too. I loved the idea of it – but just couldn’t take the repetitive on-the-nose lyrics – that “Real Human Being” song especially. If it had just been instrumental I’d have loved it, but the lyrics sometimes felt like border-line parody.

    There was a bunch of stuff I did like, but y’all have covered all that – so I guess I’ll leave it at that.

    It’s good to say some nay in the interest of keeping Vern News Fair and Balanced.

  106. I think Paul Brickman deserves more credit for this 80s stylish style.

  107. *Spoiler*
    Cliched maybe, but I love that they give him the Just How Badass Is He? scene with the shotgun pellet removal after the pawn shop heist goes wrong.

  108. Joyntster, Badalamenti didn’t have anything to do with the score, he’s only listed as such on the unfinished work print out there on the internet. Get yourself in a theater and see the movie properly.

  109. Belatedly watched this after a lengthy trip to da big city to watch it on da big screen.
    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Refn is da man.
    Beautifully composed shots (witness that lovely birds-eye shot of the park with the alignment of trees), brilliant pacing and editing. The gentle fade from Gosling’s face over the left of the frame to the strip club’s tinsel curtain is mesmerising and apt. And isn’t it great to see a movie that uses big (and understandable) close-ups for a change?
    Hell, he even made me like a romance movie for a while until the thriller/violence kicked in.
    This guy knows what he’s doing. Come on Hollywood, give him an Oscar. Or at least a handjob.

  110. I’m willing to tickle his balls while someone else “does the dirty.”

  111. Hey guy, advice time:

    I had a running gag about Ryan Gosling in one of my scripts, but after seeing how well he played a tough guy in Drive I decided that the joke didn’t make sense. Does anyone consider James Franco to be even vaguely macho? What about Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

  112. JGL ain’t shit, but I wouldn’t fight him in dream world.

    Franco cut off his own arm and still went on to live life like it was a Mountain Dew commercial, so…

  113. You might have to use Topher Grace and Elijah Wood as a backup plan.

  114. Telf, the song WAS a parody. It was daring you to believe the film was merely this ridiculous Pinnochio bullshit, while noting the parallels. I don’t know about Gosling, but if you take anything Refn says at face value you’ve fallen for a silly man’s tricks. That’s not to say he’s not serious at the same time, but like Atom Egoyan he has more of a sense of humour about his own work than tends to be recognised, while absolutely in control.

    There are three things that really bugged me about this film. One, it’s half as long as it should be; I was nowhere near ready to let go of this character and his world, and I demand a sequel post haste (I suggest calling it Drive-r). Two, it sets up a two man standing ending when there would have been no reason for one person to be unprotected. Three, it was silly when Gosling drove in reverse, sillier that he drove almost as fast as going forwards, but completely absurd when his car had multiple gears in reverse. I don’t expect sloppy mistakes like that from Refn. That last may have been fixed in the theatrical release, I saw a screener.

    None of those are big flaws, and of course the first isn’t a flaw at all. This was just an exciting film to see, more as a film than as a story.

  115. What a film. It says a lot for the style of it that one of my favourite parts centred around a guy just walking up to a restaurant and looking in a window.

    For me, the most shocking bit of violence was acted out with the killer trying to be nice about it and reassuring the killee that there would be no pain, like he was a vet putting a sick dog down. That shit was cold.

  116. Vern. You should really watch Refn’s Pusher Trilogy an write about it!
    great text about drive. Saw it yesterday and loved it and you described perfectly what made it so good. I wished I could express my feling about movies as good as you. Love your writing. Cheers from Germany!

  117. AU (Formerly Cunt (Formerly AU_Armageddon (Formerly the Artist Formerly Known As AU_Armageddon)))

    October 4th, 2011 at 7:12 am

    lololol fuck off!

    Okay, first question – a serious one – when you assholes make passive-aggressive derogative statements in wonderment about ‘common folk’ not finding this entertaining are you being wilfully ignorant or are you genuinely seriously just that dense?

    Given barely anyone here got or even liked Valhalla Rising, the irony of that position is ridiculous, even ludicrous.

    This is a fucking great film. But it’s a fucking slow paced arthouse dick-pulling pretensious piece of nonsense. And by arthouse I mean intentionally ponderous and fingering its own arse. But since you are all tonsil-deep in cocksucker mode, I have to be the voice of reason and take a negative stance on this great fucking two fisted wank of a movie.

    Hmm… what was the most stupid about it…
    1) Lottery level coincidence. What are the statistical odds that Gosling was the driver where his neighbour is robbing dirty cash from a pawn shop in a heist masterminded coincidentally by the same guy who is bankrolling his race car?
    Anyone..? Bueller..? Bueller..? Bueller..?

    2) Our anti-hero’s caricature could be considered seriously shortchanged in that he had Aspergers. Whether Refn used these traits knowingly or not I don’t know for sure. I do however suspect very highly that he didn’t as Refn is very sharp in the intuitively wise sense, but himself has very clear communicative issues and I can imagine him just drawing on his intuition when directing without being capable of thinking about it all that much. The driver is very specifically low to moderately autistic (i.e. Aspergers) coupled with a likely history of abuse (not sexual) and/or neglect. If Refn used these traits deliberately knowing what he was doing but without supporting that in any way, I could dig that too, but I’d like to have seen one single subtle hint that he was doing so – and there was not.

    3) Telf is in idiot. That music was not just a parody. If the multiple uses of “Real Human Being” were intentionally parodical in nature, then Refn clocked the joke all the way over back into the painful depths of lame territory, even Family Guyesque.

    4) Standard didn’t know her age. I forget who defended that, prolly someone like Paul, or even Majestyk making one his shitty excuses, but that was seriously stupid.

    5) Why were the bad guys so keen to die pointlessly? Why is everyone so happy to ignore that? Perlman is stupidly sticking to his guns and choosing not to end everything simply and profitably well at a level that reminded me of Mel in Payback bitching about the amount of money – except that was supposed to be funny (it really wasn’t) and this wasn’t. And Brooks was so keen to die alone. Reminded me of the stupid fuckup aspect of Nicholson in The Departed – just hangin alone without any sense of the larger organisation.

    6) Mother letting him near that kid. I know victim bitches like her can be real stupid, and she played stupid pretty well, but given his level of creepiness, I didn’t buy she was quite that stupid. Not without having at least a teensy few minutes more time to convince herself this was her soul mate and she was not a loser or alone anymore.

    7) Supermarket scene? She beat him out huh? She had an empty trolley and a kid. What the fuck did he do in there? If they showed a scene with him eating a firey curry the night before I woulda bought him having to borrow the key and take a fucking mondo dump, but without that – there is no way he can take longer, he was already half done. I wanted evidence of delhi belly like the first scene in Scary Movie 2 with James Wood as the Exorcist priest asking dear lord, release this demon….

    8) Is it just me or is it a little anti-semetic these days to have all the cunts with no redeeming features be jews, and not to mention that before Brooks became as stupid penny pinching mob cunt, he was a hollywood movie producer!?!

    9) I dun get the wooden elevator, but to be fair i was so smashed i ate babyfood thinkin it was baked beans while watching this, bitching about the size they make cans these days with every forkfull.

    10) I’m fuckin tired and smashed and can’t remember but I swear I had like 30 of these when I was watching it. Whatever. Shit like the way both heists had one guy come out, and then other a full realtime minute later – wtf casualassrobber planet are these heists done on!?! Anyways, there – in the interest of balance and a fair and just world – Fuck you.
    See, that’s self control. Not one use of the word ‘faggots’.

    Faggots.

  118. So there is apparently a woman, who is now suing the production company of this movie, because it “promotes criminal violence against Jews” and…wait for it…the trailer bares no resemblance to what the movie really is like.

    http://www.movies.com/movie-news/detroit-woman-sues-because-39drive39-wasn39t-39fast-five39/4862

  119. Somewhere in the top 25 reasons why that nitwit’s lawsuit pisses me off is that FAST FIVE and DRIVE were my two favorite movies of the summer. I feel a well-rounded individual should be able to appreciate both. But this ridiculous story encourages a cultural battle between people who only like bang bang car go fast I see man no shirt on against people who only like “higher art” and look down on people who like the other shit. I guess it’s a battle between morons with very narrow tastes and people of average intelligence with very narrow tastes.

    Of course, the lawsuit is so ludicrous and so obviously has no basis in reality that you have to assume the woman is mentally ill and being taken advantage of by some dickhead lawyer.

  120. Well, I guess DRIVE didn’t come out in the summer. Anyway, I loved ’em both.

  121. Nah, I think she is just stupid. Although stupidity spreads so hard these days, that it seems to be a highly contagious mental illness. Seriously, sometimes I think we are only a few more months away from living in the world of the ROBOCOP movies. Only without the cool robots and cyborgs.

  122. Plus, I’d argue that, if anything, Drive is a socially progressive movie as far as Jewish characters are concerned. When was the last time you saw a Jew depicted as a total thug? Sure, you get the malicious and calculating Jewish villain, like Albert Brooks’ character in Drive, or the mundane sociopath, like Woody Allen in Deconstructing Harry, or as the ego maniac who is manly, but still feels emasculated, like Robert DeNiro in Casino, but when was the last time you saw a Jewish villain whose primary weapon was muscle and brute force? You could make an argument for the Bastards in Inglorious Bastards, or even Gosling’s own anti-hero in The Believer, but both of those films still depicted their characters as fitting distinctly within the “Jewish” box to one extent or another.

    Here you have Ron Perlman as a cold-hearted bastard who is totally divorced from any archetypal Jewishness. I thought that was kinda cool.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the vast majority of Jewish characters are somehow racist because they fit into a box, lord knows I carry many of those attributes myself and put them into many of my characters, whether they are overtly Jewish or not. There is a lot of truth within that Jewish box, just like there is a lot of truth in the, first-generation-American-immigrant-from-Korea-with-hardass-parents box*. I just thought it was clever and unique to play Perlman as a type that you would most often see depicted as a Cholo or a Gangsta, and then repeatedly refer to him as a Jew in every single scene.

    *At least in my experience. I went to school in a Magnet program. About 30% of the total student body was of Asian descent, with most being first or second generation Americans. And HOT DAMN, did their parents ever ride them. Of course, the kids turned out smarter and more motivated, if slightly less socially able. But, whatever. Those kids turned me on to Chan-Wook Park, so I ain’t complaining.

  123. In the woman’s defense, she is only suing for a refund of her ticket price.

    Of course, if you watch the trailer for Drive, it gives away literally the *entire* movie, so I don’t think the ‘misleading trailer’ thing applies here. In fact, it applies LESS here than in most cases.

  124. Did Albert Brooks have his eyebrows shaved off for this? Or have his eyebrows been shaved off for a while? Or does he have eyebrows, and I just failed to notice them?

  125. I wonder could she sue the producers for cutting a trailer that gave away too much of the story?

  126. Rewatched “Death Race” (Paul WS Anderson version) last night.

    I’m suing because the presence of Joan Allen led me to believe the movie would be something along the lines of “The Notebook.”

    Am I doing this right?

  127. BR – well, it makes about as much sense to do that as what this woman is doing. Hee.

    Don’t get me wrong, this woman is an idiot and probably a crank. If there’s any good coming out of her ridiculous lawsuit, it’ll be that a precedent is set to block other lawsuits of this type.

    It brings up an interesting topic of discussion though: have you ever hated the experience of watching a movie so much in the cinema that you wanted to ask for your money back? I’ve only seen two movies in the cinema that I hated that much: “The Cell” starring Jennifer Lopez, and “Bad Boys 2” from acclaimed arthouse director and auteur Michael Bay. I’ve written enough about both movies on this forum that I won’t go into reasons why, but they’d be my picks for what I’d target if I was ever to do something as batshit insane as this woman is attempting.

  128. Oh, and question relates specifically to movies seen in cinemas. I’m not trying to start a bitchfest about everyone’s most hated movies here. (Case in point: “The Bourne Supremacy”. A movie that actually worked a lot better for me on DVD than in the cinema because the shakycam isn’t as nausea-inducing when seen on the small screen.)

  129. …Wow, that conversation starter didn’t start much conversation. :( Oh well.

    Just seen this one at my arts cinema. I suspect every film I see for the next six months will be compared to “Kill Zone”, and this one particularly deserves the comparison as in many ways they’re similar movies. “Drive” isn’t as good, but the ending works (which is practically a blessing after “Troll Hunter”).

    Everyone’s good in “Drive”. Ron Perlman plays Ron Perlman as well as Ron Perlman usually can, Albert Brooks and Ryan Gosling are convincing enough badasses, and I particularly liked Carey Mulligan in a particularly thankless role that she somehow makes memorable. Why Christina Hendricks gets fourth billing and about five minutes of screentime I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan of the “mysterious central character” tenet, especially when it’s done like this one. We never learn enough about Gosling’s character to fully identify with him, which was something of a problem to me.

    Watching this movie was a weird experience that started at the opening credits, which are shown in American Graffiti-style pink lettering. This strongly reminded me of something, couldn’t think what it was. You then have the (excellent, tense) opening scene showing Gosling doing his thing as “the driver”. Tense car chases done in a style that predates the more frenetic action beats of, for example, the canal truck chase in “Terminator 2”. An open garage with lots of flashy cars in different colours. And a lead female actress who’s unusually fragile and has a husband who’s in jail and who is the catalyst for the main plot. All very familiar. What the heck is going on?

    Then it hits me. THIS IS AN EIGHTIES MOVIE, DAMMIT! Hell, all it needed was about ten thousand more guns (yeah, eighties movies aren’t eighties movies unless they contain at least an army’s worth of hardware) and it could’ve been “Commando”. Almost. Ok, probably bad example. But you know what I mean.

    A freakin’ eighties movie, what the FUCK?

    Anyway, enjoyed it, good movie, not as good as “Kill List”, but at least it gets the ending spot-on.

  130. The beginning of Drive, with the pink titles and the heist, I was all dayum, this is GTA brought to life. Also, I think he didn’t take off his bloody Scorpion jacket because he wore it to signify when he was on the clock doing his crime time gig, only reversing it to black when he went back to his regularly scheduled lifestyle. I think he’s a superstitious kind, or maybe just Aspergerian mentally ridgid and OCD about keeping to his “rules.” He certainly pulled freakouts when people didn’t listen to him.

    And Vern, I hope you see The Thing redux on the big screen because it’s not gonna be around for very long. I was scared it’d really suck, but it was pretty ok.

  131. Scorsese made that great gangster film that had a Jewish villain (Larry David) whose primary weapon was his suit jacket.

  132. I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who thinks the Driver might have aspbergers or autism or something similar. The movie makes a ton of sense if you think about it like that.

  133. Here’s some serious shit for you guys:

    I was thinking, and perhaps this has led to pure mental masturbation on my part, but I was thinking about how there’s always been this question of: is Tarantino really a bona fide great filmmaker or is he just a great film fan regurgitating all the best shit he gleans from watching way more movies than us. I speculate that a growing majority would hold that Tarantino was in fact a genuinely great filmmaker, certainly one of the greatest in the last two decades. That Pulp Fiction really was something special and unique even if you couldn’t name an individual component of it that was entirely original.

    Do you guys think it’s possible that Refn is pushing towards something similar with Drive? I mean we all know that the movie is a really sexy combination of familiar elements, but I think maybe he reaches that Newness somehow. Here’s a possibly idiotic defense of this claim, I hope I’m not just farting into my wine glass and sniffing it:

    I just can’t get over that line “He’s a real human being” that they keep singing on the soundtrack about this guy who is so clearly not a real human being, but in every facet a fantasy that can only exist on film. It’s magic realism, and that’s nuthin new, but let’s compare it to, say, Amelie. Jean Pierre Jeunet talks about that movie and he’s all “I airbrushed every frame! That’s how it looks like that! It’s not like anything you’ve seen!”

    He seemed vaguely defensive over how artificial the film is, when of course that’s the whole point and no need to be sorry bro. Then you have a movie like No Country for Old Men, where it’s not going for that Amelie or Wes Anderson magic thing, it’s actually really bare-bones and procedural and you didactically watch Javier Bardem’s slow and precise juggernaut-like movements. Or Children of Men with its unprecedented continuous-take action immersion: it was about authenticity, not artifice, yes? But obviously Antoine Chigur is just as much of a larger-than-life movie fantasy as John Drive, and the vision of the infant creating the cease fire in Children of Men was totally magic realism right?

    So everything seems to be coinciding into this philosophy where the very experience of watching the film is the primary point of interest, and everything else is secondary. Drive is different not in that it uses those techniques, but that does so with a degree of conviction and a lack of apology we’ve not seen. Critics can wax analytically about the font he uses for the titles, which 10 years ago would have been viewed as a cool choice contributing to a movie’s aesthetic, but not evidence of genuine vision as it’s willingly embraced by many today. I can’t really think of any other movie that operates so purely on this level. The best I could come up with was Enter the Void, but again Gaspar Noe seems to have this attitude of “It’s not just a bunch of crazy photography and images creating an unbelievably vivid and immersive experience, I’m saying something incredible about life the universe and everything!”

    So I’m gonna, um, actually post this nonsense I guess…cheers!

  134. If Drive was Winding-Refn’s first movie (it’s not even his first American movie) I would have bought your premise, renfield. But the fact is that he’s the Danish Soderbergh not Tarantino. He changes his style a lot, and he believes honestly that Charles Bronson never made a bad movie. Have another Carlsberg and put it on my tab!

  135. That’s a good point, there’s something to be said for the fact that Tarantino arrived on the scene with his identity more or less intact.

  136. Just in case y’all needed another reason to appreciate DRIVE, its awesome soundtrack’s legacy continues:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNdgkZWOjx4

    Not the hottest song ever, but I’m enjoying most of the new Gambino album alright.

    “Drop a new track /
    All blogs go to heaven.”

  137. Tina Fey’s verse at the end is the best part.

    “I don’t feel comfortable!”

  138. http://collider.com/drive-sequel/201353/

    DRIVEN, the sequel to the novel (not to be confused with the Stallone flick) just came out. I have both books on my iPad and am finding some elements of the original novel on which this movie was based. I’m still just a few chapters into it (other books have taken my fancy as of late, in particular Pete Townshend’s autobiography), but some details of the characters life that isn’t in the movie is quite interesting particularly his childhood.

    I love the idea that Refn wants to do another movie with the character, but straying further away from the literary source. With that logic in place, could Driver be the next John McClane?

  139. Holy shit, you guys, I just realized that there’s only a week until DRIVE 2: AMERICAN KICKBOXER, a.k.a ONLY GOD FORGIVES comes out. I haven’t watched a trailer or anything yet but I’m pretty pumped.

    This is shaping up to be a pretty awesome summer, isn’t it?

  140. billydeethrilliams

    July 19th, 2013 at 5:46 am

    So Vern, are you planning on watching Only God Forgives this weekend?

  141. billydeethrilliams

    July 21st, 2013 at 9:55 am

    My post is not about George Zimmerman or Comic-con bullshit or any other nonsense like that. I saw Only God Forgives. 10 out of 10 for me. Or 4 stars, two thumbs up, I have a hard-on for it, etc. The shot composition is on the level of PT Anderson and Kubrick. The lighting is incredible, especially during scenes with heavy shadow. A terrific “just how badass is he” scene. Arthouse badassery on the level of Jean Pierre Melville. Great badass juxtaposition (and I’m not talking about Gosling). I loved this movie, if you couldn’t tell. Sorry this post isn’t about Superman and Batman going ass to ass together.

  142. Billydee, I saw it last night and had the exact opposite reaction. I was into it for about 5 minutes, but then it just devolved into cinematic masturbation. It’s a shame. It was my number one anticipated movie of the year too.

  143. billydeethrilliams

    July 21st, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Jack Burton- I completely agree that it’s cinematic masturbation. This movie is 99% style over substance. But I could care less. Refn knew exactly what he wanted to do and was in complete control of it. I do think there are deeper themes that run throughout the movie, but you have to reach a bit to find them. His other movies (haven’t seen the Pusher trilogy or Fear X) follow basically the same template, and there all good as well. But this is most well crafted, in my opinion.

  144. billydeethrilliams

    July 21st, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    *his most well crafted. Whoops.

  145. I think I might have been a victim of my own expectations. Like Valhalla Rising, it was just a long way to go for a little payoff. There were themes there that I appreciated (like the fact that the guy who you immediately associate to be the “villain” of the piece turns out to have the most grounded moral compass of any of the characters), but they got muddied in the mire of Refn’s style. There could’ve been a classic here if the karaoke and prostitution ogling had been pared down.

  146. The karaoke and prostitute-ogling were crucial. Gosling’s character is in an ethical quagmire that has rendered him incapable of action. Hence, he spends his leisure hours engaged in a relationship in which he never touches the other person. He just sits there impotently, his hands useless and limp. No wonder he SPOILER sacrifices them at the end: All they do is remind him of how ineffectual he is. The cop, however, is all action. He sees what’s happening, passes judgement, and immediately executes. Hence, his leisure activity is not being an audience member, but a performer. He sings songs while Gosling barely speaks.

  147. Again, it was thematically sound. I just felt Refn hammered those points home far too many times. And his overindulgent style diluted the potential power of the film.

  148. I loved Ryan Gosling’s work in DRIVE! I love the look, especially his jacket…killer! recently my friend has bought the drive scorpion jacket from somewhere and I am also planning to buy it.

  149. Good for you.

  150. Just watched DRIVE for the 3rd time and it’s damn near perfect. Love the man-with-no-name badassness of Driver and the ambiguity of his character.

    My interpretation is that he (sorry about the clichés) probably comes from a messed up family, which is why he’s a loner and self-sufficient, since he doesn’t have a lot of trust in people.

    I agree with Alfonse G above when he talks about the impulses Driver might have to be the hero who rescues the woman in distress. This could be where his need to protect the woman and child come from, and why he’s willing to help her husband Standard out with the robbery, because he wants the husband to be free of his debt so they can be a normal family.

    Some of you also said in your comments that he could have autism or aspergers. I just think he sees things through the filter of his own experience and has a distorted image of himself as the hero, which is why he works as a stunt driver in the movies, to escape his past and to secure his own image of himself on celluloid, even if it means he has to wear a mask sometimes.

    Theres the scene around the dinner table with the family and Driver when Standards telling the story of how they met. He said he went up to Irene at a party and said his name was “Standard”. Irene finished the story by saying ” I asked him where the Deluxe version was.” Driver turns to Irene and smiles. This moment made me wonder if Driver saw himself as the Deluxe version of The Man. It makes sense if he has a distorted image of himself.

    I love this movie, definitely one of the best of this decade. I watched this tonight with my 18 year old son who had never seen it. As soon as the opening credits appeared in neon and the music started he said “I love it already.” For the rest of the movie he was riveted.

    At the end when Brooks and Driver knifed each other and Driver drove off and left the money, my son commented on how come he didn’t take the money. It was a perfect opportunity for me to introduce him to the theory of the badass. I said for these guys it’s never about the money, it’s about their code, and who they’re fighting for. Quite possibly in Drivers case, he was fighting for the Deluxe version of himself.

    Some of you also said in your comments that he could have autism or aspergers. I just think he sees things through the filter of his own experience and has a distorted image of himself as the hero, which is why he works as a stunt driver in the movies, to escape his past and to secure his own image of himself on celluloid, even if it means he has to wear a mask metimes.

  151. ^sorry, last paragraph a double-up. I’m sacking my proof reader.

  152. Was watching this again this last night for the several-eth time, when my son walked in the room, saw what I was watching and casually remarked “Did you know they’ve done an alternative re-score to this movie?” Well, fuck. No. I didn’t know that. And I’m not so sure I like the thought of them fucking around with a perfect goddamn score to a perfect goddamn movie. (I used less harsh language, of course.)

    So I googled this –

    http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/radio-1s-rescore-of-the-movie-drive-a-valiant-idea-that-ultimately-falls-flat

    and am more than happy it didn’t turn out so well. I haven’t listened to it, and maybe one day I’ll check it out. But shit, we all know DRIVE is a rare modern classic, isn’t it a bit soon to be fucking with our gold? Dicks.

  153. This kind of thing works better when it’s a happy accident like whoever it was discovered that DARK SIDE OF THE MOON synchs perfectly with the first 40-odd minutes of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

  154. I wonder, watching a little bit of this again, how the newer generations would take to watching some of Albert Brooks’ classic movies after seeing this first. I think a year ago I saw LOST IN AMERICA for the first time, and in the scene where his wife reveals that she wasted the nest egg nest on gambling, I could see how it might play as more dangerous to those maybe not familiar with his more comedic work. In some of his best work there is a level of anger that sometimes crosses from comedic to downright scary. In BROADCAST NEWS for example there’s an argument between his and Holly Hunter’s character where he turns up his voice to 11 and it kind of stops the movie in it’s tracks for a minute. There’s also his numerous appearances on THE SIMPSONS. All of his characters it seems to me looking back, were meant to be divisive if not necessarily villainous in their intent.

  155. Love this film. It’s just about perfect.

  156. Best scene in the movie: when Scorpion Jacket Man is alone in the diner and a goon from a previous heist approaches him to talk shop. The perfect delivery of “…..shut your trap or I’ll kick your teeth down your throat and shut it for you” (sic) is amazing.

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