Stuntman come criminal escort, Gosling’s lone cowboy of the four-wheel variety speaks to no one about nothing to get the job done and them out. Obviously this guy is not a complete tough guy, in fact he champions the rough around the edges bad boy cool of Newman, Eastwood, McQueen and Redford before him, throw in Marlon Brando and James Dean and you can add Gosling as heir apparent to the roster of leading men. Drive boasts only a handful of chase sequences, all well shot snaps paying much homage to McQueen’s iconic scenes in Bullet, however for the most part the film focuses on the Driver and his affection for young hot mother next door Irene and her son Benecio.
The movie even begins with the Driver firmly explaining the rules that go along with hiring him. While on the job, we see the way in which he drives. He’s a true professional and is not about long and over-the-top chase sequences. Instead the skill in which he eludes the police is inspired even breathtaking. The characters are crucial to the flow of the story and it’s refreshing to see their importance placed over the need to meet expectations of the typical car chase movies.
Expectedly it’s also a well cast film, notably down to Ryan Gosling as the nameless stoney-faced protagonist. Although Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn adds a lot of style to the film and really tries to present Gosling as a tough leading man he never quite reaches those heights and Gosling comes a little short of really displaying the screen presence of a man with a believable sketchy past (as those mentioned before him) because truly, its’ still Ryan Gosling, that heart-throb from The Notebook…and Disney Club.
Carey Mulligan as young mother next door and love interest, Irene, is adorable and fits the part of her role, though similarly to Goslings tough guy, her sweet demeanour makes it a bit difficult to imagine how she ended up married to a criminal, this also contributes to making you feel that something must have seriously taken a turn in her tragic back-story. Bryan Cranston (a very long way from Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, but not unlike his Breaking Bad lead) also gives a really understated performance as Shannon, the man who hired the Driver and repairs/modifies his cars. The real scene stealers come from the bad guys however, who run a local pizza joint in L.A. They represent a Jewish sect of a larger mob family apparently, with Albert Brooks’s character being a former action movie producer turned organized crime boss. He’s in no way meant to be humorous (and trust me, he isn’t) and his partner is played by the always entertaining Ron Perlman, a mobster who resents the small time operation he runs with Brooks on the west coast. The two of them are vicious and ruthless killers who, through an uncanny string of bad luck and circumstances, find themselves at war with the nameless Driver.
The 80s stylised soundtrack gives the film the same vibe and slow motion and Refn takes his time telling the story, focusing primarily on developing his characters. Interestingly, because of the reserved and shallow nature of the protagonist, a few of his “bonding” scenes with Irene are shown through montage, which keeps us at a constant distance with him. This makes the hyper-violent actions scenes all the more shocking, because we aren’t shown that he’s capable of that level of violence. Still, making the film about the Driver instead of his actual driving is a good choice and makes the story that much more interesting when the action does present itself. Highlight: Hammer fight that most critics, and I have to agree, is almost a smidgen better than that in Oldboy.
FOREWORD :And for the purpose of my fingers and sanity I will refer to Joseph Gordon Levitt as JGL from here on.And Bryce Dallas Howard as BDH.
Every year we are blessed with a good indie production with two or more of the most unlikely pairings you would think to put on camera. This may not be the film, but it falls in to that category.
JGL, in my opinion, is slowly etching a deeper status as one of the best versatile young actors (post the Depp era) alongside Gyllenhaal, Franco, Tom Hardy and Ryan Gosling of the last decade and this year fresh off the hype and well received praise for Inception and (500) Days of Summer (and soon to be the 3rd and final Nolan/Bale BATMAN installment eeeks) he returns with 50/50. Moreover he returns with a ‘Apatow Alcatraz’ recent runaway Seth Rogan.
We follow Adam, played by JGL a twenty-something diagnosed with a rare spinal Cancer that leaves him with a 50/50 chance of survival. Just as he starts to make his way through manhood with the dream job and trophy girlfriend we are then taken down the less than idealistic road to share his journey as he deals subsequent chemotherapy treatments, exasperating side-effects, other cancer sufferers and the sad and bemusing inability for those around him to be able to ‘cope’. Aside from his own curious and endearing yet awkward journey in dealing something that is quiet frankly a very real and very grim ongoing reality in the real world, we delve in to his relationship with his boisterous best friend and central support system Kyle, played by Rogan. When his relationship with his gorgeous girlfriend Rachel (BDH) falters due to her incapability to deal with his illness, Adam starts to form a flirtatious relationship with his newly graduated therapist, played by a flawless Anna Kendrik.
Some may feel uncomfortable with the subject matter being used in the same discourse for comedy but with a disease that has effectively become a mammoth and aggressive plague in recent decades, the old adage of laughter being the best medicine is the prevalent theme of this movie. Key moments in the film come to mind because they portray a realistic view of desperation and sometimes the surreal acceptance when faced with the subject of ones mortality. For instance, Adam’s flustered mother (Anjelica Huston) offering he sick son green tea as the cure for cancer based on TV’s prescription and Adams dabble with the recreational, during a shared chemotherapy session with an older patient.
As ever JGL put in a solid performance as the every-man, the unfortunate statistic diagnosed each day. Though perhaps not his most ground-breaking (the best is yet to come) his portrayal of Adam is sincere, not the over-played or self-debilitating act I was expecting – in fact I didn’t even cry until the end, when perhaps the humour had wilted away leaving him to really let the possibility that the odds were not in his favour. As for Rogan, well I didn’t really feel he’d made steps beyond anything I’d seen him in before, the circumstances in terms of narrative are slightly less R-Rated and more PG12 (or whatever Beaches is rated as) but he was his usual dopey to the point of arrogant funny self. However the fact that the film is based on the semi autobiographical experiences of the films screenwriter and Cancer survivor, Will Reiser and Rogan, his real life best friend, it makes sense that he wasn’t pushing the boundaries to offer a dramatic oscar thirsty version of himself but probably just relishing in expressing and sharing a moment in his life clearly close to his heart.