Review: Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn

After Drive having already left UK cinemas and me having missed it on multiple occasions, I finally made it to an 11:30pm screening half way round the world at the Embassy Theatre cinema – the one which was remodelled and art-deco-ed out for the premiere of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2003 – in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington.

And damn, it was totally worth the wait.

Danish-born and New York raised director, Nicolas Winding Refn, had been lurking in the back-wings of Copenhagen until Drive, his first USA produced film, hits the screens at Cannes 2011.

Constructed of a culmination of artistic shots of the Driver’s scorpion emblazoned silver satin jacket, which somewhat reminiscent of Anger’s Scorpio Rising, some gaudy pink-neon opening credits in a font not dissimilar to that of Dirty Dancing (or probably more aptly the Vice City video game) and an 80s soundtrack, the mindless action-packed film trailer really did mislead.

And probably it was the most awesome mislead of the year. Adapted from James Sallis’ 2005 novel of the same name, Drive is a violent mesh of neo-noir crime and social drama parading as action thriller with enough artyness to be indie but not enough plot-drag to be more or less than that. A warm and perfect spot to be in.

The story follows the unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) who drives stunt cars by day and getaway cars by night. After becoming involved with his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son, the Driver is swept up in a final crime to clear Irene’s husbands’ debts. After that, it gets messy…

Though the book dominoes through a concise chain of events, it’s strangely written as though it never went through editing at its publishers, with word ellipsis and uncomfortable grammar. Yet the film smooths out the creases of the book, and captures the Driver’s withdrawn, verging on socially inept character.

What’s left to say other than that I wish I could get away with saying, “I drive,” like I was in a Hollywood film but not actually being in one.


Drive, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn (2011, USA)


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