288. Drive (US 2011)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Cary Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, James Biberi,
Music: Cliff Martinez
Cinematography: Newton Thomas Siegel
Novel: James Sallis
Screenplay: Hossein Amini
Fact: Hugh Jackman was the original first choice as The Kid (!) /The Driver (...small mercies etc)
Lie: Ron and Rhea Perlman are identical twins (This gag may fall down due to the possible different spellings of their surnames, but I'm not looking it up)
Time: 100 minutes
In one line: a getaway driver gets mixed up with a married woman and the Mafia
The Kid (Gosling) works at Shannon's garage when he's not employed as an occasional film stunt driver. The Kid also doubles (trebles?) up as a getaway driver for hire.
The Kid's unusual USP is that he will give his clients just five minutes of his driving time and then they are on their own.
Shannon (the usually excellent Cranston) negotiates a loan with local mobster (Bernie Rose*) to invest in The Kid's racing skills and is given a $300000 dollar loan to purchase a NASCAR-style racing car. Rose's partner Nino (Perlman) is also involved in the deal - Shannon was tortured and had his pelvis broken by Nino's heavies for defaulting on a previous 'loan'.
'The Mob' tests The Kid's nerve by taking the sausage from his 'Sausage Dinner'
Meanwhile The Kid becomes involved with young married mother Irene (Mulligan), but is dismayed when her husband Standard (Isaac) returns home from jail. Standard owes money to prison loanshark Cook (Biberi) who is tied in with both Rose and Nino.
Standard agrees to rob a pawn shop along with Cook's associate Blanche (Hendricks). The Kid tells Cook that he will do the driving so long as that after the heist, Standard, Irene and their son Benicio are free from their debts and threats.
As always, the heist goes awry.
A fantastic, atmospheric film. There are traces of Walter Hill's The Driver, Michael Mann's Thief and To Live and Die in L.A., Shane Meadows Dead Man's Shoes (check out the rubber mask vengeance scene) and any number of early 80s heist films. There are also elements of many great 70s heist movies such as The Getaway and The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and there are obvious shades of Bullitt in the chase scenes.
The opening scene where the The Kid/The Driver evades a police helicopter is a masterpiece of brilliant editing, directing and unshowy acting. Gosling is excellent throughout and is ably supported by everyone concerned. Brooks makes a brilliant, chilling villain. It's so long since I saw in a film that I'd forgotten that he'd aged and he resembles both Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein and director Spike Jonze's 'Old Man' appearances in the first Jackass movie. Hendricks is just a Rubensesque goddess and Perlman doesn't need any make up to be scary.
"Bernie Rose knows - don't argue!" Albert Brooks also played Celtic boss Jock Stein in Jock Stein: the Jock Stein Story
Director Refn's Bronson suggested that he was a film maker unafraid to deal in the more poetic aspects of cinema and he gives Drive (the title is the weakest aspect of the whole enterprise) a fairytale (and obviously) existential quality that helps the film to linger long in the memory.
Hendricks as Blanche - almost subliminal 'Woody' gag in the distance.
The violence is appalling (in its truest sense) when it rears its disturbing head in the film. There's a 'skull crushing' that in not just vile, but totally at odds with its perpetrator's film character.
Having said that, this is a superb film very similar in mood and graphic-novel like sensibilities as Cronenberg's A History of Violence, but without doubt, its definite superior. There's a tremendous Italo-electro soundtrack, as well.
Watch it on the big screen if you can.