GORE IN THE STORE

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DRIVE *****

 

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
 Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Russ Tamblyn.
USA 2011 100 mins Certificate: 18


Available from Second Sight Films on 4k Ultra HD / Blu-Ray Limited Edition / Standard Edition from June 6th, 2022

 

When did then-rising auteur Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE become over a decade old? Hard to comprehend that we’ve had around eleven years of self-conscious DRIVE-wannabes, endless Spotify listens to the collective works of key soundtrack collaborators Kavinsky, College and the Chromatics – and fashionably retro synth scores in everything from the superb MANIAC remake to THOR: RAGNAROK.

 

Back then, Refn’s adaptation of the James Sallis novel (care of the Oscar-winning screenwriter Hossein Amini), was a confirmation (and then some) of the immense promise the filmmaker had displayed in his PUSHER trilogy (1996-2005), BLEEDER (1999), the flawed, commercially catastrophic but fascinating FEAR X (2003), BRONSON (2008) and VALHALLA RISING (2009). Now afforded extra, stunning visual and audio lustre thanks to Second Sight’s sterling 4k resurrection, it’s fascinating to look back on an uber-stylish, narratively stripped down but coherent calling-card picture made by Refn before he, at times, has vanished up his own backside with projects (usually) as compulsive as they are frustrating.

 

For those fresh out of the womb or with fading memories, here is a reminder of the then-career best turn from Ryan Gosling as a laconic Hollywood stuntman who doubles as an efficient heist driver. Carey Mulligan, fresh from AN EDUCATION, is the lonely waitress / mother who befriends him while her husband is doing time; he’s played by Oscar Isaac, with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS and EX MACHINA just round the corner. Once the latter is released, Gosling feels obliged to assist on a million-dollar job that, inevitably, goes horribly wrong and ends with an array of disarmingly unpleasant people on his trail.

 

Gosling cannily turns on a dime from monosyllabic, hard-to-read antihero in the 70s Hollywood neo-noir mould (Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER is among the influences) to a recognisably human and vulnerable man capable of both romantic gestures and acts of extreme violence -sometimes all in the same scene. A marvellous demonstration of this mass of contradictions occurs in the sequence where he bludgeons a henchman’s head to a pulpy mess in an elevator while Mulligan looks on. An astonishing beach-set pursuit of Ron Perlman (suitably obnoxious as the partner of Jewish mobster Albert Brooks) even sees our leading man take the form of a silent, masked assassin like something out of an 80s slasher flick. Mulligan, meanwhile, essays an appealing, fragile figure without sentimentalising her plight.

 

Refn and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel give the L.A. backdrop a richly eerie nocturnal beauty while Cliff Martinez’s influential, evocative electro-pop score (and the well-placed needle drops) perfectly suit the appealingly bleak all-round vibe. The lower-key first hour simmers with menace and tension before Refn’s command of visceral action unleashes still-shocking carnage. In an eclectic cast of scene-stealers, the Golden Globe-nominated Brooks brilliantly subverts his cuddly / witty screen persona as an imposing former producer of 1980s action movies who has reached the point where driving a fork into the eye of a minor nuisance doesn’t seem like much of an over-reaction.

 

Second Sight’s release is suitably stacked with extra goodies: if you spring for the Limited Edition, you get lush packaging, artwork, art cards and a 240-page hardback book of essays, interviews and stills. The discs in all incarnations include abundant new features, notably a commentary between Refn and The Guardian’s contrary-Mary critic Peter Bradshaw, plus an engaging three-way Skype chat between Refn, editor Mat Newman and Martinez in which, among many other things, they discuss John Hughes as another key influence on the picture’s approach and structure.

 

Steven West.

 

 

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