Sunday, January 8, 2012


Finally got around to seeing Nicholas Winding Refn’s DRIVE

It’s a combo of 1970s and 1980s Los Angeles neo-noir aesthetics—Walter Hill and Jacque Deray blended with some Michael Mann—with some copious gore and a fab supporting cast (yes, Albert Brooks is as good as people are saying—and Bryan Cranston was good enough to want to see more of his character, a smarmy but nice loser).

(Deray is the director of the excellent 1972 thriller The Outside Man, a flick I cannot recommend enough and am glad I own—thanks, Toestubber!—and one that I will be watching again soon.
The Outside Man is also referenced heavily in the must-see-for-all-cinephiles documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), another must-see.)

While I honestly do not think there was enough automobile-centric scenes in the film—they don’t all have to be chases, either—and there was way too much mushy maple-syrup-filtered boy-girl-romance-yawnage—
I do think the first hour of Drive was great, really top flight stuff that had me completely on-board.
But after a while, the flick’s existential Euro-cool bordering on autism shtick started to grind me down.
And I hate, hate, HATE a caper flick (and there’s certainly a caper flick in Drive) where the treasure is thoughtlessly left behind.
Doesn’t Ryan Gosling’s character think that cute Carey Mulligan could use that bread? (Don’t be mad: I warned you there’d be spoilers.)
(And leaving it behind is much different from endings, like Kubrick’s The Killing or Huston’s Treasure of Sierra Madre, where it is thematically important that the loot be lost.)

That said, I will be renting Drive when it becomes available—not only to examine and re-appreciate the movie’s good points, and maybe reassess what I’ve seen and like it more (the photography is fantastic, and I’m glad I saw this in a theater), but also because the gorehound in me NEEDS to slo-mo Big Red’s death scene!

Valhalla Rising is the only other film of Refn’s that I’ve seen, and like Drive is great until roughly the last 10-15 minutes. But I do recommend it! And I intend to hunt down Refn’s old films and keep my eyes peeled for the new ones.

Now, while I’ll be renting Drive when it’s on DVD, I fully intend to buy Walter Hill’s excellent 1978 existential neo-noir car chase thriller The Driver, a movie that surely must have influenced Drive.
Not so much a caper flick, The Driver is a cat-&-mouse struggle between the Driver (Ryan O’Neal) and the Detective, played by an awesome Bruce Dern.

Through the magic of Nflix Streeeeeemin’, I recently caught up with TRESPASS, Hill’s 1992 collaboration with Robert “chasing MoCap till I have a heart attack” Zemeckis and David Gale.
I’m a big fan of Hill’s early work, especially The Driver, The Warriors and Southern Comfort, but after the financial failure of a very personal (for the ultra-reticent Hill) project Streets of Fire, some sort of spark went out of his work—or else being forced to work with a mug like James Belushi in Red Heat killed his soul.
(Despite that, I’m a mega-fan of Hill’s collaboration with John Milius, 1987’s Extreme Prejudice.)

But Trespass is basically remembered as that flick where two guys named Bill face off against two guys named Ice. I can only recommend it for dedicated Hill completists: It’s a long slog, and Hill is strictly director-for-hire, letting bad acting and plot contrivances pile up—Jeez, whatever happened to Hill’s once-incredible screenwriting skills; see: Hickey & Boggs, The Getaway or Alien.


  1. Since I just posted my fav list, I won't deny that "Drive" is my numero uno pick for the year, and I can justify that on repeat viewings it gets much, much better even.

    And for older Refn films, his "Pusher" trilogy is hard to beat. "Fear X", the one with John Turturro going nuts... I know I've seen it but can't remember a damn thing about it.

    And yes, continue to champion "The Outside Man". Just a terrific, lost film.

  2. Just found out that "Bronson" is on Nflix InstaVue! That's what I'm watching this weekend!

  3. Loved "Drive." The book it's based on seems like good pulp...

    You gotta see Refn's PUSHER trilogy, and also BLEEDER. Intense.

  4. Dave,
    Watched "Bronson" last night: holy fucking shit. What an incredible movie, a new Ivanlandia fave--I liked it more than Drive, I have to say (not that I should compare the two). Bronson was aces on all fronts: photography, acting, themes, violence, all of it. Whew. Great flick.
    Gotta watch Valhalla Rising again, and catch up on the Pusher series.