This week’s movie of the week is another sneak preview provided by the New York Times’ Film Club. So me and my old, liberal, hardcopy-of-newspaper reading Jewish friends sat down for the Ryan Gosling action vehicle Drive. The movie co-starred Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, Sons of Anarchy’s Ron Perlman and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks so not one, not two, but three television transitions to film depend on Gosling (granted Perlman has already found some success as Hellboy). To sum up this movie, those three should not quit their day jobs (both because they are great on their television shows and because this movie is not going to make them movie stars). Like a girl’s first period this movie is bloody, confusing and messy.
First off Ryan Gosling is having a tremendous year. He has been an indie film darling, but between nailing Eva Mendes, and starring in Crazy Stupid Love this Summer and The Ides of March with George Clooney next month he is officially making the move from indie star to possible A-list Hollywood leading man in 2011. Drive was meant to be an action vehicle for him to show some versatility I am guessing, though it looks more like it was a relaxing paycheck where he could take a break from actually acting.
Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway car driver. Seems like an intriguing character. Unfortunately none of the character is developed. He is a mystery man in terms of his origins and what drives him (pun intended), but we simultaneously know so many other facts about him that it feels peculiar to not know why he is the man that he is. I think they were aiming for man of mystery cool with Gosling’s character, but he ends up just seeming like someone with poor social and verbal skills. The opening scene of the film is the highlight and raised the bar for what I expected from the movie. However, it falls short for the next 90 minutes.
Gosling lives next door to a mom whose criminal husband (not a bad guy criminal, but more of a looking-for-a-second-chance criminal) has just been released from prison. Of course Gosling has a whole week before the husband returns to become a surrogate father figure and a platonic husband figure to the woman, played by Carrie Mulligan.
Well, once the husband returns our hero must help him do a job in order to keep his wife and son safe. That is when the movie, both for the characters and the audience, goes off the rails. It becomes an incredibly violent bloodfest. Gosling is a stone-cold killer, which is never explained how or why he became like this (not even a suggested hint), and every gun shot or stomping if offered in incredibly grotesque visuals.
If I was going to describe the music of the film, as well as the motif, I would say imagine the techno-synth atrocities that made up the songs of Scarface with Al Pacino. Now imagine Adele were singing those songs. Pretty interesting. It is like poetic, terrible sounding music, which is exactly how I would describe the movie in general. There is definite effort by the director (partly through excessive slow motion) to make an artistic action movie, but it just isn’t as good as it could have been. Fortunately everyone in the project has other, bigger things to fall back on.
Final Grade – C+