Define a hero. In thinking about a person you would attribute that label to, do you envision them committing atrocious acts? If you can’t imagine seeing a hero doing anything malicious, then just go and see “Drive.” A tale of two halves that starts slow and ends in a orgy of gore and violence, “Drive” is certainly intriguing, but hard to fully appreciate.
Driver is the ambiguous title the main character is referred to, as he’s never given a true name. By day he’s a quiet and introverted stunt driver for Hollywood movies (when not working at a body shop). At night, he’s a quiet and introverted get-away-driver for hire. Like any pop culture wheel man, Driver has a specific set of rules his clients must follow and if they’re not followed, you get left behind. Driver’s plans for his life are diverted when he meets Irene and her son, Benicio. After a short period of time getting to know his new friends and helping them however he can, Irene learns her husband (Standard), who’s in prison, is being released. Soon Driver learns that Standard (who’s doing his best to lead a straight life) is being blackmailed into pulling a job that is meant as repayment for protection he received in prison. Knowing Irene and Benicio have been threatened if the job isn’t done, Driver offers his services to get the family out of trouble. It‘s from this point forward that everything spins out of control and Driver’s true nature is revealed.
Based on the book by James Sallis and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (“Pusher”, “Bronson”) “Drive” feels like the bastard child of Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” and Scorsese’s, “Taxi Driver.” The first half deals with the formation of a somewhat odd relationship that leads into a psychopathic ending, all in the name of love. The main difference here is that Driver is the protagonist compared to “Something Wild’s” Ray and his actions are made with the best intentions but not misconstrued by others, like Travis Bickle who ended up a folk hero. The main separation point for “Drive” is the vision Driver has of himself. There’s a repeating theme of the fable of the scorpion and the frog in the film. Driver even wears a jacket with a huge scorpion on the back as a reminder of the burdens he will carry. It signifies that his character understands not only the nature of others, but the duality that exists in him as he finds himself capable of a range of actions, from honorable to horrific.
Lush and vivid visuals adorn every second of the film, even when the screen is covered in crimson gore. “Drive” is a striking movie at every point and will draw the viewer in no matter what the pace. Ryan Gosling is his normal strange and understated self. He’s the perfect person to play Driver and for those who still see him as just the heartthrob will be a little shocked to see him in action here. The rest of the cast feels like they have been placed in a role you would expect for them, except of course Albert Brooks who is playing so much against type, that if I ever met him in person, I would scan the room for any type of sharp objects and have them all removed. It’s a great character for him as he can be as joyous and outgoing as he normally is, while letting a slight twinge of sly depravity shine through.
If you haven’t guessed by now, after a certain point, “Drive” does turn into an energetic ball of blood and guts. With a head explosion to rival that of “Scanners” and what can be described as the closest visual description you will ever see of what it looks like to have someone’s face kicked in, “Drive” seems to be too violent to appeal to the romantic audience goer and too slow for the action film buffs out there. This isn’t a bad film and will surely be fodder for great conversation, but it’s hard to enjoy fully on any level and will leave too many with confused and conflicted emotions.
Rating: 3 out of 5 ‘Staches