VICE Movie Club - Drive
Drive was a fun movie. Drive is also a movie that—like most subjects tangibly related to the reverence of hot pink font—is the opposite of fun to discuss in public. Weeks after its release, mentioning Drive to a friend over a cheeseburger still carries the risk of attracting one if not all of the following: the guy who really, really got the genre pastiche and rattles off a dissertation on what “the comeback of the silent type means for masculinity in cinema”; the pretentious wadface who says, “Oh, and before you say I didn’t get it’” before spewing off a litany of movies the film allegedly pillaged (all the while making molester eyes at your fries); the underwhelmed girl who no doubt snarked, “Lemme guess, he’s going for another drive?” midway through the film; or worst of all, the person who shares an unsolicited, nightmarish comment you can’t shake like, “Ryan Gosling, so cute. He has eyes like baby aspirin.” (Possibly overheard at a bus stop.) Oh yeah, and then there’s this Brooklyn dog.
VICE Movie Club wasn’t going to let the first American-made film from Danish nerd Nicolas Refn slide by unnoticed. He managed to get a violent noir filled with slow-as-lean Hollywood iconography and nods to Kenneth Anger (the scorpion), Tobe Hooper, and Gaspar Noé (who consulted on the elevator stomp) into a thousand-plus theaters. Many people, including a few of the folks below, believe it’s the best movie of the year. But it’s also inspired its share of unhinged devotion, from the guy whose Drive fandom inspired him to toss a wiener at Tiger Woods, to the people this Halloween weekend who were decked out in $200 white satin scorpion jackets and $900 handsome guy goon masks. So let’s see if we can strip away the layers of hype, shall we?
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT - WRITER/DIRECTOR (GOD BLESS AMERICA; WORLD’S GREATEST DAD - ACTOR (POLICE ACADEMY FRANCHISE)
When I was a kid, I saw Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster and I thought it was the greatest movie ever made. Later, when I revisited it, I found it much too preachy—all save-the-earth shit and not enough hot skyscraper destruction action. I’m not always looking to learn an important moral lesson from a movie. I just want it to be as good as I remember it. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster now seems like the Captain Planet of Godzilla movies. Which brings me to why I liked Drive, a movie that pretty much blew my ass through my face.
I know years from now, Drive will hold up. It will be one of those movies that can still make me happy. One of those movies that I have to stop and watch for a while when it unexpectedly shows up on TV, just like Boogie Nights, Pulp Fiction, Ed Wood, or Goodfellas. Drive is a simple redemption story, but it’s told really well, a modern Western where cars are used instead of horses and where bad men wear toupees instead of black hats. But unlike most Westerns, the characters are not one-dimensional archetypes. The cast is amazing; Albert Brooks is so believable in it. Finally, it appears that Brooks will be able to finally step out of the shadow of his brother Super Dave. Don’t be scared off if you’re like me and you don’t like car chases. This is not Fast and the Furious: Echo Park Drift.
I was recently at the Toronto Film Festival and overheard moviegoers walking around talking about the ideas behind people’s movies. But when I walked out of Drive in a Los Angeles theater last night, everyone was talking about how they could have made it better. So I guess the lesson I learned from Drive is that I loved the movie and I fucking hate Los Angeles sometimes.
TOM SCHARPLING - HOST/CREATOR (THE BEST SHOW ON WFMU) - MUSIC VIDEO DIRECTOR TITUS ANDRONICUS
I loved this film! My favorite things about it were how the topless dancers weren't fazed by a dude pulling a hammer on another dude in their dressing room, the notion that a Clippers-Raptors game would draw enough people to create a sizable enough distraction, and without a doubt the creepiest mask I have ever seen in my life. It is also a good movie for anybody suffering from a urinary tract infection because they can get up and run—not walk!—to the boys’ or girls’ room and get back in time to not have missed crucial plot details. Recommended!
PAT HEALY - ACTOR ( THE INNKEEPERS ; COMPLIANCE) - WRITER ( EATING WITH THE ENEMY )
Drive is my favorite movie in many years. It's exhilarating in a way movies almost never are any more. Gosling has been the most exciting actor of his generation sinceThe Believer a decade ago. Now he joins the ranks of the world’s Steve McQueens. He is attaining iconic status.
The hero becomes an obsessive murderer. The villain has pangs of guilt before viciously stabbing people to death. The tenderness with which Albert Brooks opens up Bryan Cranston's veins still haunts me after three viewings. The husband who just got out of prison is actually a good guy who doesn't beat his wife and is in a tough spot. This movie is different. Plus, it has awesome car chases, pulse-pounding music and shows LA as it really is. I don't know what the backlash is about.
The internet has birthed more “movie critics” than Mrs. Maltin's vagina. There seems to be an assumption that when praise is heaped on a movie it must be “profound” in some way. Is the film profound? It is when you consider that new movies rarely have two people act like humans in both conversation and silence. But some people see the film as pulp (which it is, in the most glorious and perfect of ways). Bottom line: When some snarkster writes without explanation that Drive is nothing more than a Hipster Halloween Fashion Show, I want to smash his head like a melon so he never hurts anyone again.
BEN WHEATLEY - WRITER/DIRECTOR (KILL LIST; DOWN TERRACE)
Drive for me was like dropping through a hole in cinema back to a time when art met commerce, when a scene could play out at its own pace, and where heroes defended the helpless without irony. I watched the film in Canada on the first day of release. Sitting there with an audience, hearing them whoop and gasp through the film, demonstrated that people don’t need to be spoon-fed stories. Bold and confident, Drive is mesmerizing filmmaking.
A.J. BOWEN - ACTOR (YOU’RE NEXT; A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE)
I’m turning 34 this December. I say that only to note that I am firmly a child of 80s cinema. So when I saw Drive, I was immediately thrown into an alter-verse I had not visited in years—a place somewhere between Walter Hill and Michael Mann, spanning some distance of time between 1981 and 1984. I’ll skip the part where I say it's my favorite film of the last several years (it is), or how richly executed the visual elements were (especially for a film shot on video), or how tightly wound the performances were, and speak on my area of expertise: the violence.
Having made primarily genre work, I know my way around a bloody scene. I don't usually care much for violence in cinema; it always seems to miss the point. In Drive, however, the violence is grotesque, visceral, and almost entirely human-on-human, which I believe is intentional. Violence in this instance should be horrific and detail the human cost. The violence in Drive is juxtaposed with prosaic cinematography and an ethereal score, so when it hits, it hits hard, and it’s troubling. It's heavy. That I'm still thinking about the film, wrapping up these thoughts so I can go catch it again on a Monday morning should tell you my opinion on it.
GREG EGGEBEEN - VICE - PROGRAMMER (THE SPECTACLE THEATER)
The 80s-throwback hot-pink font, the sun-bleached Los Angeles location, the mingling of European artiness and American exploitation… Do we really need another Tarantino-esque recycling of genre comfort food overstuffed with air quotes? Actually, yeah, maybe we do. Despite a laundry list of references and heavy borrowing from Walter Hill's The Driver, Refn exhibits real craftsmanship, pulling such a strong performance from Gosling that I'd recommend the movie to friends. Gosling will probably be more remembered for Drive than for most of his other films, and for good reason.
Everyone keeps talking about the film’s ultra-violence. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but Refn does such a good job lulling you into the film's gently pulsating rhythm that when the carnage does arrive, it’s unexpected and effective. What it really comes down to is the believability of Gosling. Brooding and taciturn, it would've been easy for his performance to spill over into self-parody, but I bought most of it. What I didn't buy was his sensitive shy-boy routine with Carry Mulligan. Drive could have been a nihilistic gem, but Refn heaves the love story into center court, and Gosling's infatuation with Mulligan is the film’s crux.
HUNTER STEPHENSON - VICE
People used to make a big deal about whether or not Grand Theft Auto would ever be adapted into a movie. Until Drive, the movie that came closest to approximating the hypnotic nihilism of GTA was Crank 2: High Voltage. But Drive, among its accomplishments, easily one-ups that film in a sequence that is what GTA would look like boiled down to pure cinema: the scene where the Driver, unrecognizable in his fleshy stuntman mask, stares through the front door window of Nino’s while operatic mafioso music blares and the line between safe entertainment and nefarious art is fuzzed, recalls both Stanley Kubrick and modern kids’ addiction to vicarious console carnage.
That’s the moment where Refn gets to gleefully show the Driver’s break from reality. Refn subverts the aforementioned classic silent type by using a quiet character that’s totally nuts. Other than insanity, how do you explain the scene where the Driver drives Carey Mulligan and her child to the blechy LA River—shades of Edward Furlong and the reprogrammed Terminator—for a day of sightseeing and playing with dead, smelly urchin claws?