Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DRIVE - Stylish and Suspenseful

DRIVE (romance/crime thriller)
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Screenplay by Hossein Amini from the book by James Sallis
Time: 100 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Ryan Gosling as the Driver

PREAMBLE: Drive combines a heist thriller with a revenge caper as well as a love story! It is somewhat like a movie that Quentin Tarantino would make because each of these three 'genres' threatens to break at the seams. The fact that they don't bodes well for the work of relatively unknown Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (who gave us Valhalla Rising).

Refn is known among cult movie fans for the Pusher trilogy and Bronson. And as you may suspect, Drive has greater appeal for those who like arty and cult flicks.

Gosling and Mulligan as neighbours

SYNOPSIS: Gosling plays an unnamed Driver and mechanic in L.A. who does stunt-driving for the movies by day - and drives getaway cars for robbers by night. His modus operandi is to give his customers a waiting period of five minutes for him to drive them to safety; anything past that, it's goodbye.

Staying alone and detached helps him in his 'work' until he meet his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son (Kaden Leos) and starts a relationship with them. Later, when he tries to help Irene's paroled hubby (Oscar Isaac) with a robbery that will clear his debts to some nasty people, he finds himself getting deep into trouble.

HITS & MISSES: The biggest thrill we get in watching Drive is that we never quite know what's going to happen - or what the protagonist is going to do. Rosling's Driver is interesting. We see him as a silent loner who takes pride in his 'work' but doesn't quite care about money. He has decided to care for Irene and her son but doesn't really know how to go about it. We sympathise with him and root for him even when he makes mistakes and bad judgements.

It is also easy to root for BAFTA award winner Mulligan's Irene, a stoical mom who works as a waitress to support her family. And yes, Gosling and Mulligan exhibit a palpable chemistry that keeps us in suspense and anticipation. Then there is the affable Bryan Cranston (of TV's Breaking Bad) who plays the Driver's boss Shannon, and Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman in baddie roles that reminds us of Robert De Niro. Christina Kendricks has a small role as a gang moll.

It is convenient to compare Refn with Tarantino, but he is fast developing a style all his own, combining the classic styles with modern
techniques. Indeed, Refn is one director to watch.

THE LOWDOWN: A romance/action-thriller that's both stylish and suspenseful.


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