Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Let's start with this:  Best Movie of the Year.  Right here, right now.  Maybe something in the coming months will steal the crown, but for now, Hail to the King.

"Drive" is a movie with a strange kind of history.  It initially began life as a 2005 crime novel by James Sallis (which I and the vast majority of humanity have not read).  Hollywood took the book, and then adapted it into an action movie for Hugh Jackman.  Basically that movie would have been "The Transporter 4" or "The Fast and Furious 9"*, with little more to add into it.  Somehow or another Jackman and the first director gave up on the project, and "Drive" wound up in the hands of Nicholas Winding Refn, the Danish Quentin Taratino.  How many Danish filmmakers can you name?  And since the ultimate project was slower and more artistic, Hugh Jackman's role wound up in the hands of Ryan Gosling.  What then was created was the most 80s movie ever made outside of the actual 80s, a film with serious style, from Gosling's kickass satin jacker all the way up.

This is a such a fun movie, made exactly in the style of so many films I love.  I love crime dramas, especially ones that manage to present their stories with such vibrant beauty as this one.  The casting is shot-on, the action scenes are brutally awesome, and the villains are menacing but still actually pretty hilarious.  If your movie's dialog can both frighten me and make me burst out laughing, you've made a classic.  "Drive" is the best crime movie I've seen since "The Departed".  Its glorious.  Honestly, I have to wonder if any movie this year is going to top this one, it will be a hard battle.

For whatever reason, "Drive" tries its best to be a complete recreation of 80s exploitation action films.  Ironically, the main villain mentions that he used to make movies like this make in that decade, and now he has the misfortune to live in one of these gritty massacres.  I actually haven't seen many movies of this style beforehand, but I can tell 80s style just by looking at the poster.  Hey look, its almost the "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" font, pink cursive letters.  Most of the buildings and cars are either pre-80s or built in the 80s.  I didn't spot any single object in "Drive"'s Los Angeles that looks any younger than 1990.  Plus the amazing soundtrack is full of electronic pop songs that actually are modern songs made in the style of 80s bands like "Blondie" or "The Go-Gos".  As it turns out, there's a huge amount of 80s music still being made, and long hours on Youtube have been spent investigating this phenomenon.

Ryan Gosling as the hero is a playing a walking enigma.  He's a 21st century Man With No Man Name, some hero who wandered into the story out of nowhere, kicks some serious ass, then leaves.  The script and book just call him "the Driver".  Unlike Clint Eastwood, the Driver isn't a gunslinger, he's a driver.  In this movie's world, nobody is a better driver than the Driver.  The Stig is reborn in this universe with Ryan Gosling's face.  Speaking of the Stig, the Driver has very little dialog in this entire movie.  He interacts with characters most of the time with stirring looks and little smiles.  Ultimately, however, we're as divorced from this man as the rest of the world, you never really figure out what the Driver's true psychology is.  Every move he makes certainly fits the Hollywood hero demands, but when he's kicking a grunt's skull in, you can see the real savagery underneath his friendly persona.  I'm not entirely sure if the Driver is human at all, or its he's just putting on a very good front.  I suspect his true nature can be seen on the back of his satin jacket:   a scorpion, ready to kill any in his way to survive.  He basically turns into Michael Myers for an entire scene.  The Driver already moonlights as a heist driver, and you can see his ruthless streak at the beginning of the film when he lets his two co-criminals get caught by the police.

Yeah, the Driver might seem like a nice guy, but you know he means business once he brings out that clawhammer.  He can play amazing songs that with instrument.

Well, the Driver definitely dresses a heck of a lot better than most humans.  Driving gloves, that unbelievably cool satin jacket, tight jeans, and a constant toothpic*.  I fucking love that jacket, I want it so bad.  I spend the entire movie studying its every detail.  Creme outside with diamond stitching, brown interior and shoulder lines.  And there's the symbolic scorpion stitching on the back, yellow for the body, orange for the shadows.  If any of you ever want to buy me a gift for any reason, get me that jacket.  I also really want classic driving gloves**, put that on my Christmas list too.

Let's move into the plot.  "Drive" is basically a story of how one robbery of the wrong crappy pawn shop can somehow lead to massive devastation amongst a cast of really crap memorable characters.  The Driver is an auto-mechanic working for Brian Cranston in lots of assorted odd jobs, including a film stunt driver.  As I mentioned before, he moonlights as a getaway driver for robberies - but that's all he does.  "I don't go inside, I don't hold a gun, I drive."  The Driver runs into his neighbor, a pretty woman with her son and starts up a small romance with her.  (Carey Mulligan plays this woman, and she looks roughly nine-years-old in the role.)  Unfortunately, the neighbor's husband is about to get out of jail, so all Ryan Gosling can get is a few meaningful stares and some hand-holding.  Even more unfortunately, the husband is in debt to some nasty people who will kill him and his family if he doesn't do one job.  Meanwhile, the Driver is working with his boss in a project with the Jewish Mob to start up a race driving company.  All is working out there, until it turns out that the Mobsters are the ones threatening the husband.  Then people start getting their heads blown off with shotguns.  Now its up the Driver and his handy clawhammer to save his own life and the life of Carey Mulligan and her son.

In this movie's most interesting bit of casting, Albert Brooks plays the main Mobster.  And holy shit, does he bring something special to this role.  Typically Albert Brooks is just a harmless comedian with a distinctive voice - you probably know him best as Marlin from "Finding Nemo".  Well, Marlin is swinging some huge pipe in this movie, he is a walking tornado.  With a sociopathic sense of reluctance Albert Brooks flat-out murders several people in extremely gory ways, quick deaths full of blood.  Albert Brooks might be dark and scary here, but he's also hysterical, there was not a line I didn't laugh at.  Because its Albert Brooks!  If this were Jack Nicholson or Frank Langella, it would have been an okay performance, but Albert Brooks brought something special.  I wonder how Nemo would react if he saw his dad slicing Brian Cranston's wrists...

Also, surprisingly for a movie called "Drive", there actually isn't all that much in the way of car chases.  There's one classic chase halfway through the film between a black Mustang GT and a Chrysler 300, and even though it is very exciting, its hardly any better than the car chase scene in "Unknown" back in February.  The opening of the movie has something like a car chase, but its a very different kind of sequence.  Its more a strategic hide-and-seek game between the Driver's car and the police looking for him.  It was massively exciting in its own way, and impressive to look at.  The Driver is a creative guy when it comes to evasion, like instead of gunning it down the highway to avoid a cop, he'll just park and put the car in idle.  I only wish there was a final car crash of some kind (I don't know how it would fit the story), though the crime thriller action was perfectly fine.  If you're looking for the definitive car movie of this year, I'd say go back to "Drive Angry Shot in 3D".

Did I mention this movie was beautifully shot?  Because that's important as well.  When a movie has as little dialog as this from its main hero, you need the visuals to back things up.  There are plenty of fantastic shots that remain haunting days after this movie is over.

So there we are.  "Drive" is an incredible movie, with an incredible satin jacket.  I know for sure that no movie this year will top that jacket, because no jacket on Earth can ever be that cool.  Man, I really wish I had an article of clothing that singularly fantastic.  The movie is really great too, but that jacket is, to borrow the gayest term I can think of, fabulous.

I really want that jacket.

* The toothpic might just become the modern day Politically Correct replacement for the badass cigarette or short cigar in modern films.  Gosling even mentions explicitly that he doesn't smoke, but he sure makes up for it by having an equally iconic oral fascination.

** You might want to put off getting me those things though.  I kinda smashed my car only hours after seeing this movie, probably because subconsciously I thought I could do a stupidly dangerous turn as well as the Driver.  Turns out I'm not Ryan Gosling, and much destruction has been wrought.  Nobody was hurt, thank god, but several cars died tragically.


  1. Personally, I've always wanted a duster.

  2. http://steadyclothing.com/NEW%20SITE/PAGES/drive.html

    There ya go man

  3. Yeah, dusters are pretty sweet. I have one, though it's kinda heavy.

  4. Shit! It was marlin from Finding Nemo! That's why I thought it was so disturbing when he became such a danger around cutlery, well after letting out a very loud laugh. That film was an amazing rollercoaster; there were so many memorable scenes that just stick with you, not least what occurs in the lift. Pure entertainment.