L.A. is a great big freeway, says the song. The early bits of “Drive” roll that point home, again and again. With music and film techniques familiar from any number of recent movies, including the “Transporter” franchise, you think you know where you are.
Then, it all changes. Ryan Gosling goes from being Nic Cage, all quietness and controlled anger, to being in a film that pays homage to Film Noir mixed with grisly Japanese film murder scenes, with a dollop of Quentin Tarantino thrown in.
What on earth is all this meant to be? Is it art? Usually, free screenings for Picturehouse members are arty and different. “Drive” earns its 18 certificate and is not for the queasy about graphic violence.
The story, as much as it is relevant, is that Gosling plays a movie stunt driver who also works in a garage. He does some illegal getaway driving on the side.
His neighbour is Irene, played by Carey Mulligan (“An Education” and “Never Let Me Go”). Her American accent is pitch perfect and she plays the mother of an adorable boy. Her husband is in prison, but is due out soon.
I have been a big fan of Ryan Gosling since I saw the very wonderful “Murder By Numbers”. Yet I cannot imagine that I would ever wish to sit through anything like “Drive” again.
Despite a very wonderful cast, including Bryan Cranston (dad to “Malcolm in the Middle”), Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks and Oscar Isaac, I am not at all sure I understand the last 40 minutes of this 100-minute tale at all. Nor do I wish to.
I can’t put any spoilers into this because I honestly have no idea at all of how it ends, despite having watched it through without distractions.
Apart from the deaths, of course. I can tell you who dies, but I won’t.
Based on a novel by James Sallis, it’s directed by Nicolas Winding Refn who is an American born in Denmark. There is probably some deep message about the alienation of modern American life here, but I don’t care very much about any of these people. Even Gosling and Mulligan seem too pale and insubstantial, here.
The music by Cliff Martinez and others is really wonderful and preserves the other-worldly feel to this.
Kaden Leos is astonishing as Irene’s son.
Some of the dialogue is real and resonant.
But I am left feeling that the Emperor has no clothes on at all, metaphorically. Gosling and Mulligan look and sound good, but that’s about it. There are some terrific chase sequences and some awesome stunts.
Might the message be crime doesn’t pay, particularly if you have little power or money? Who cares? Not me.
I guess it gives Gosling and Mulligan a showreel for gritty roles, in the future. But that’s about it. Skip it, unless you have a stomach for violence and a terrific appetite for car chases and stunts.