Drive (2011) Review

A movie can offer nothing new, or really original, but just be a very good example of how to do that kind of film. Drive offers nothing particularly original. We have all seen revenge movies before or a movie about a “one-man crusade.” Drive is a movie about a man pushed too far, desperate, trying to make things right and keep people he cares about safe. From Payback to Taken, this isn’t anything fresh or original.

The performances or the style the story is presented in can offer the fresh or original take on a familiar story though and luckily for Drive, the cast is fantastic. Ryan Gosling is the perfect choice for the no-name hero of the story. A modern-day Clint Eastwood; mysterious, quiet, unassuming but confident and steady enough that you know he is someone not to mess with. He says very little but manages to sell his character with actions alone. Its the way he reacts to those around him, from the gangsters he gets inadvertently involved with to the small boy who takes a part in his life and drives the actions of the film.

Gosling is fantastic as the “man-with-no-name.”

It’s not just Gosling’s performance though. The hero needs enemies and allies. His reason for revenge is in the form of the constantly reliable Carey Mulligan.  She manages to play the vulnerable but appealing neighbour that Gosling wants to fight for and defend. It’s just a shame that beyond damsel in distress, there is really very little for the great actress to do.

It doesn’t just stop with Mulligan though. Bryan Cranston drags Gosling into more than his fair share of issues. Everytime I see him in another movie, far detached from Malcolm’s Dad, it shocks me and reminds me how good an actor he really is. Add Ron Perlman and you have a great supporting cast. Its just a shame that there is very little for them all to do.

The great cast could have more to do.

It’s not that the story is lacking. The tale is a good one, if not a little familiar and unoriginal. It has pace and interesting, intense and gory scenes that demonstrate Gosling’s ability to be a hero. It’s also pretty obvious and predictable, even when it tries to throw some surprises into the mix. At a run time of only 100 minutes, I wondered why they didn’t take advantage of the great assets the movie has.

It could have been more than a straight-forward revenge movie. Perlman’s gangster could have been utilised much more, amping-up his notoriety or exactly how nasty he could be. The relationship between Gosling, Mulligan and her son could have been explored further, maybe adding more tension when Mulligan’s husband returns from prison. The movie feels like it’s over before it really begins and even though its very good at what it does, I just wonder if it could have been so much better.

More could have been done with the great cast and great supporting characters.

If it hadn’t starred Gosling, Mulligan, Perlman and Cranston, I probably wouldn’t mind the short run time, the lack of anything but a generic story and the pretty straight-forward revenge plot. Although without the great cast, it probably wouldn’t be a film worth seeing or paying attention to.

Overall, Drive is a very good example of how to do a revenge movie. Gosling plays the “man-with-no-name” brilliantly and the fantastic cast offer a great support and structure to the story. Its also put together very well, with pace and action that keeps it interesting. Its nothing special though and without the great cast, wouldn’t really offer anything new or worthwhile to a genre already made-up of fantastic movies.

Rating 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Without this cast, would this film be anything special?
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