Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drive: 4 Macs

Drive is all over the map: it begins with a clear homage to Walter Hill's 1978 cult hit The Driver, where Ryan Gosling takes on Ryan O'Neal's character of the driver. He is cool, calm and collected with a fucking tooth pick. His rules are clear and fair, he is the driver and that is all. So we seem to have a simple heist/car chase picture, until after the credits come up on the screen layered in pink and we enter John Hughes territory with the boy likes girl scenario showered in 80s synth pop. This continues for what seems like an hour, short on dialogue or car action. During this period we are introduced to the main characters, who all seem repressed and frightened. Gosling is borderline mute, his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) isn't far off either, but despite this they spark a relationship along with her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). 

Apart from getting warm and cuddly with Irene and Benicio, the Driver works in the movies as a stuntman, while working as a team with his mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston) in a garage. He also moonlights as a getaway driver from time to time I suppose. Shannon introduces him to Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), an ex movie producer, who dabbles in crime with his Jewish mob partner Nino (Ron Perlman). Bernie invests $300,000 into a NASCAR vehicle that the Driver will inhabit. 

When it seems the Driver and Irene might become romantically involved, her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) returns from prison, only to be harassed by a petty gangster named Cook (James Biberi), who vows to harm Irene and Benicio if he doesn't do a robbery for him. The Driver, cool as a fucking cucumber and chewing on his tooth pick decides to help Standard in the heist in order to protect Irene and Benicio. Of course everything that can go wrong does, Standard is killed and the Driver is left with the money and responsible for the lives of Irene and Benicio. 

From John Hughes and Walter Hill we are catapulted into visceral display of violence and survival that is reminiscent of Scorsese's Taxi Driver and John Carpenter's Halloween. In fact the killings are played out in similar style to the slasher genre, and by the time we get to the beach scene we feel like we are face to face with Michael Myers. The Driver also portrays characteristics similar to Paul Schrader's Travis Bickle, a man who is severed from social interaction, but who is willing to put his life on the line for the greater good. The Driver gains more of a personality through his violent acts, which he takes too far in order to just defend himself (elevator scene). Our interest in him grows and we become curious as to what occurred in our protagonist's life before Los Angeles (an idea for a prequel), but for now he remains existential and the supporting cast keeps us up to date on the spiraling predicament. 

Nicolas Winding Refn chooses style and technique over substance, but there is emotion present, only it is  repressed by the characters through fear or vulnerability. Shannon and Bernie repress their feelings for each other, fear on Shannon's part and vulnerability on Bernie's part. Nino is the only character who really lets it pour out when he expresses his spite for the Italian mafia because they patronize him for being Jewish. 

Alas, Drive for the general audience does come down to style with its neo-noir landscape of Los Angeles, retro 80s synthesizers and violent gore that would make Tom Savini proud. It is evident why Refn won the Best Director Award at Cannes this year for this genre mashing piece of work and while Driver may not be the years best film it is the most interesting yet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5 Mac Rating System

It has been brought to my attention from the masses (two friends) that I need to adapt to some form of rating system. So if your entire family perishes in a fire and you simply just do not have the time to read my entire review, you can now just take a quick glimpse at the 5 Mac rating system. It goes as follows:

5 Macs= Excellent
4 Macs= Very Good
3 Macs= Good
2 Macs= Probably shouldn't
1 Mac= Gay

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Warrior delivers exactly what you expect, but it still succeeds keeping you on the edge of your seat for close to an hour of the film. There are three reasons for this: the fantastic atmosphere and mise en scene of the MMA tournament, the fight scenes are incredibly intense and the fact that the audience within and outside the film are conflicted as to whom to route for. It is refreshing to see that, if only the WWE could follow suit in their storyline because the whole heel/babyface type cast decreases the level of competition from the audiences' point of view. 

The first half of the film is basic enough and pretty mundane compared to last years The Fighter, which was shot with more style and technique, along with lively characters and humorous scenarios. Another fight movie involving brothers, but this time they actually go against each other in combat. Tommy (Tom Hardy) acts all mysterio here when he returns home to his father (Nick Nolte) after serving as a marine in the Middle-East. He decides he wants to fight and enter the MMA tournament to win the grand prize of $5 million. He wants his father, who was an abusive drunk throughout his childhood to train him formally. The father, Paddy, has been sober for 1,000 days and wants to make amends. Tommy isn't interested, cut off from all human emotion and basically a fighting machine. The human side is delivered to us by the brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), a science teacher, family man about to lose his house and suspended because of fighting for money on the weekend. He returns to his old trainer and by technicality is placed in the tournament. 

 It is not until the tournament in Atlantic City that the excitement and atmosphere really begins. The build up and anticipation is brilliantly portrayed by Gavin O'Connor from then on. The brothers meet on the beach in A.C. and Tommy remains cold, not recognizing Brendan as his brother. It is revealed soon after that Tommy is in fact a war hero (how good is this guy?) Paddy continues to try and connect with Tommy until one devastating scene where he is rejected and degraded by his son. The show must go on. 

The tournament proceeds with extremely enthralling bouts that could inspire the skinniest, nerdiest, Amish boy to join the UFC.  Another great factor in this movie is the support from the fighters' trainers, family, friends and in Brendan's case the student body. You get so tied up in the tournament that you forget that this is a film and feel like you are experiencing sport. The climax is quite rushed and corny, but it can be forgiven due to the sheer exhilaration of the bouts because the fact is that we don't really care about the exterior of the fighting cage, the film belongs in there.