Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
This is a spectacular coming out party for Refn. He's cut his teeth on indie films with his Pusher trilogy and Bronson and now he's got the attention of mainstream America (and Ryan Gosling fans) with Drive. It's a brilliant tête-à-tête movie filled with lots of violence and tension. Ryan Gosling plays a very calm and cool psychopath who makes a living driving getaway cars. Of course, he falls for the girl next door (quite literally) and that's when his life gets even more complicated. Needless to say, he messes with the wrong Jewish mafia man, Mr. Albert "badass" Brooks himself.
Let's just talk about Brooks for a second. This is one of the best performances I've seen this year. I don't know how he did it, but Brooks (the voice behind Finding Nemo's dad and Jacob the Tiger in Doctor Doolittle) somehow manages to be absolutely terrifying in this movie. How many necks is he going to have to stab to get a nomination? He made Ron Perlman look like a big pussy in this movie - that's how good he was. His character was, quite convincingly, all over the place - one minute he's brutally stabbing a man in the neck after a tirade and the next he's calmly slicing open his old partner's arm while simultaneously placating him. It's amazing to behold while it's happening.
As for the rest of the cast? Pretty brilliant - Ryan Gosling at times is almost too coy and charming for this movie. There were times when he would just smirk at a person who was talking to him instead of talking and I wanted to shout "RYAN! YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON YOUR GOLDEN VOICE! JUST SAY SOMETHING SO I CAN HEAR THAT SWEET, SWEET MUSIC THAT COMES FROM YOUR YOUR BEAUTIFUL SOUL!" Yes, I did get a little carried away with this movie, but his character is who he is. I'm pretty sure there's only 30 or 40 lines of dialogue for Gosling. But it's really not necessary - he's a man of few words and he lets his hands do all the talking. At one point he makes his move on Carey Mulligan in an elevator while next to his would-be assassin and then after the kiss, he proceeds to kick the guy's ass and eventually crushes the dude's skull. It sounds bizarre, but in the movie it's somewhat graceful and sweet, yet diabolical. The rest of the cast - Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman - they all do a fantastic job. Plus the movie really fugs up Christina Hendricks so much that she's unrecognizable (a rare feat) as white trash lady #2. There's a fantastic scene with her in the bathroom that I won't give away because I totally gasped out loud "holy shit!" when it happened. Brilliant.
The movie is all about a layer bubbling underneath (much like Gosling's character) of devilish intentions and chaos. It reminded me a lot in tone of No Country for Old Men and I would even go so far as to compare Ryan Gosling to Javier Bardem's psycho assassin. They both present a calm demeanor, but there's something extremely grotesque about them. And the movie has this fine layer of boy meets girl vibe, but really, it's just as twisted as the killers. It's all presented very poetically - in fact this movie is one of the few mainstream movies where the direction seems like stanzas. There's a certain beat and rhythm to each scene - and there's just so many great angles and shots that I think may turn out to be very iconic as time goes on. On top of the cinematography, the music is simply brilliant and outstanding - it's a rare achievement for a movie to have a score that can be listened to outside of the movie and you can feel and hear the scenes while it plays.
It's a great film that should have been on many people's short list, but sadly, it only got a paltry one nomination (for sound editing!). I can see a rising star with Refn - I imagine he's probably got a lot of studios asking him to do some big-time movies and I can't wait to see what he'll do next.