Sunday, October 02, 2011


PCMR Verdict: The form over content rule applies here: it looks and sounds great, but ultimately is hollow and forgettable.

PCMR Rating: 6/10

You don't need to watch the E! network (the exclamation mark isn't a typo by the way) and you don't need to follow Perez Hilton on twitter to be aware of a rising star by the name of Ryan Gosling. In their words: he's, like, so hot right now. Gosling is very much in demand: his chiselled features are brooding on loads of posters in your local cinema at the moment, as he's currently starring in no less than three Hollywood productions that are all on release right now.

PCMR should probably first point out that this apparently sudden rise probably started about four years ago, with Half-Nelson. That was a great movie by the way, and earned Gosling a surprise, but deserving Oscar nomination. It seemed then that Gosling's future was assured, but after making a couple more movies ('Fracture', 'Lars and the Real Girl') he went on hiatus for a while. Since last year though, he's back for real, and now seems determined to be in every movie that gets released.

The first of his current trio on release, 'Crazy, Stupid Love' appears to be an American re-imagining of 'Love, Actually', but with more nudity. And where there's nudity, PCMR isn't too far away, so watch this space for more on that one. (For your own information, Gosling is the one in the trailer who is asked if he is photoshopped).

The second - 'The Ides Of March' - is a worthy political thriller, written and directed by George Clooney. This is one that will probably make some Oscar waves, maybe even for Gosling himself, so again watch this space for a review pretty soon.

And the third is this one, which I've just seen so can happily fill you in right away.

'Drive' is a stylish heist drama with great looks, but perhaps not too much going on behind the eyes. Gosling plays an unnamed L.A. resident, who drives professionally for the movies by day, and for gangsters by night. Bryan Cranston (from Breaking Bad) plays the Whistler to Gosling's Blade, so to speak: he's somehow taken him under his wing to work in his auto shop (so make that three jobs - Ed), in a kind of a father figure type deal. And he has a limp. (Hence the Whistler thing).

Irene (Carey Mulligan) is Gosling's neighbour, and he strikes up a relationship with her and her kid, even though her husband is about to get out of prison. This risk taken by Gosling's character is the event that kicks the action into gear. Once Irene's husband gets out, he's quickly required to do one last heist job to clear some debts with some less than savoury characters, and the driver finds himself drawn in... What do you think happens folks, reckon it all goes well?

The dialogue in Drive is sparse, and Gosling's scenes in particular are often punctuated with long silences, or smiles. He does have an undeniable charisma, and although I gave all this the benefit of the doubt at first, it soon got a little trying. The point of all these silences was seemingly to demonstrate his calming influence on Irene, which I guess makes sense, and these scenes were undeniably pretty to look at, with a great electro soundtrack in the background. It's probably damning though, that the best scenes featuring Gosling and Mulligan were the ones without any dialogue.

When the bad men appear, and things turn a little violent, the change in tone is sudden, and the violence is shocking. There are only two or three scenes of real violence, but this is very bloody ultra-violence, almost harking to Tarantino, or his Japanese manga influences in certain moments (there's one moment featuring a bullet and a hammer that is unpleasant to say the least).

So, it's a love story crossed with a heist, and when the body count starts to build up, it gets a little ultra-violent, Tarantino-ish even... what's not to like? Well the thing is, there just doesn't seem to be a heart to the movie. Events play out with panache, and the action unfolds with style, but I never really found myself rooting for anybody. Gosling's character in particular, never really tries to win over the audience. He doesn't have a name, which is supposed to make him mysterious, but is a device that has been overused. He wears a jacket that has a scorpion on the back, but when something is trying so hard to be cool, isn't that uncool!? The few driving scenes are certainly done extremely well, and generally make Gosling look good, but that aside, he doesn't really have any good dialogue, which makes it very difficult to warm to the character.

I haven't read the book that this is based on, so it's very possible that the movie is faithful to the source material. Director Nicholas Winding Refn has a good eye and the film certainly looks great. The soundtrack is also achingly cool, featuring French female vocalists crooning over synthesizers as as Gosling guns his motor around the L.A. nightscapes, reminding the viewer of Michael Mann's Collateral, or Miami Vice perhaps.

The problem is, 'Drive' is pretty, but also a little vacant. I enjoyed watching it, but found it a little too self-conscious to earn a glowing recommendation. The love story aspect lacked chemistry and the violence was shockingly brutal, but the few driving scenes were great. On balance however, it's the lack of likeable characters that really makes Drive difficult to fall in love with.

No comments:

/** Amazon Affiliates code /** Google Analytics Code