Drive is somewhat of a paradox. For those expecting the shiny, shouty rampages of such blockbusters as The Fast and the Furious, you will be disappointed (or relieved, if you are sane), but those expecting a dark, brooding character-driven film will also be left cold. It seems to contain elements of both of these, yet at other times seemingly none. In essence, Drive is a very violent crime film that - while its location of Los Angeles is imperative to its aesthetic - resembles a brutality perhaps most associated with Australian cinema. It's an odd film, the font and graphics used, the wretched music, and the naff clothing all want this to be set in the 1980s, and go against the grainy underbelly of modern day LA it is attempting to show; at times, it feels an adaptation of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Ryan Gosling plays a nameless character that is both frustrating and mysterious; he goes from the shy, nice guy-next-door routine to psychopath within seconds, with very little insight as to who he really is. Such is the withholding of the real character (and often dialogue) that you are even left wondering whether the character is supposed to be a tad simple. His involvement with his next door neighbour, leading to his plunge into the crime world, is thread-bare; they have spoken a handful of times before he is offering to assist in an armed robbery he knows little to nothing about, in order to save the family he knows little to nothing about. Of course, it goes wrong.
The film is painfully violent - graphic, brutal, yet wonderfully captured. There is a quiet, restrained tone to the violence; while gruesome, it manages to remain malevolently sombre and calculated, adding further mystery to the real nature and psychology of the lead character. It’s slick and, I suppose, relatively "cool", but I guess you’d have to think a guy who can drive really fast and wears white sports jackets with a scorpions on the back is cool.
There are some pretty major plot holes in the movie that jar the experience, making one question in frustration when they should be gripped with fascination. The performances are solid and the direction is creative - especially the driving scenes, where they steer away from convention when it comes to capturing speed and tension. For the genre it is working within, it for the most part succeeds in avoiding the superfluity associated with it. It is engaging and undeniably entertaining, but for a film with so much fanfare it’s difficult to see what people are seeing beyond the shiny surface.
Screening complimentary of The Showroom Cinema, Sheffield.