DRIVE IS SURE to surprise and confuse most movie-goers, since the trailers and TV spots released paint it as a high-octane action-thriller when that is just not the case. Instead, director Nicolas Winding Refn takes what could have been a generic, by-the-numbers affair and injects it with healthy dose of eccentric images and sounds to create something that is whole-heartedly unique. What’s produced is an ambitious art house film, one that occasionally dabbles in extreme violence and vehicular mayhem.
Ryan Gosling stars as a nameless “driver,” a mysterious and mostly silent figure who works as an auto mechanic and stunt driver by day and a freelance wheelman by night. Even though the solitary driver eventually cozies up to single mother Irene (Carey Mulligan), he soon finds himself on the wrong end of a robbery gone bad. To make matters worse, local gangsters are also actively pursuing him now that he has a bag full of their money in his possession.
Refn establishes a surreal atmosphere thanks to the strange imagery that’s backed by a crazy yet amazing synth-pop soundtrack. Another thing of note is the filmmakers use of lighting and colour throughout, which is vaguely reminiscent of 1980s films like Miami Vice or Scarface, as pastel colour schemes and picturesque sunsets dominate the screen.
Although Ryan Gosling has been keeping it low-key for the last couple of years, he returns with a vengeance as the driver. In the beginning, he’s just bland leading man, spending the first half of the film staring and smiling sweetly at his love interest like he’s auditioning for a role in Twilight. There comes a point where he switches from soft-spoken pretty boy to unrelenting killing machine in the blink of an eye. Not only is he believable, but he’s scary, too—especially when he gets behind the wheel of a classic muscle car.
The one thing that detracts from the plot is Refn’s use of cartoonish, over-the-top gore. When the film eventually reaches its intense third act, things get nasty, as scenes involving people getting shot, stabbed, and curb stomped are accompanied by slow motion and gratuitous close-ups. It is almost laughable and clashes with subtlety that permeates the rest of the film.
Other than a slow start and some distracting gore, Drive is a weird but satisfying movie that solidifies Ryan Gosling as a bona fide screen badass. Some may be turned off by its unconventional sound, look, and overall tone, but sometimes-polarizing movies are the ones worth experiencing first-hand.
TO SOME, CANCER is a death sentence, but new film 50/50 demonstrates with a few close friends and family, making it through might be a whole lot easier.
When Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer at the tender age of 27, he tries to maintain a normal life. This proves more difficult than he anticipated, with the path to recovery being long and challenging. With the help of a supportive friend (Seth Rogen), a kind therapist (Anna Kendrick), and an overbearing but equally desperate mother (Anjelica Huston), Adam finds he may be able to recover his youth and live the life he imagined.
Gordon-Levitt displays a great range of emotional expression, from being stoned out of his mind on medical marijuana to melting down when faced with his own mortality. As hilarious and profane as ever, Rogen adds some levity to difficult situations, but is equally convincing as a man struggling with the illness of a close friend. Rogen did have some personal experience to base his portrayal off of though, since 50/50 is a dramatization of the real-life cancer experience of his friend Will Reiser.
A modern and well-selected soundtrack, featuring the tracks from Radiohead and Pearl Jam, adds depth to scenes and mirrors the mood well. This movie is ultimately about characters—people who try to smile in the face of dire situations. If you’re looking for a cheer-up film, look no further—50/50 is a must-see flick.
BELLFLOWER IS NOT an easy movie to review, because—as much as I appreciated some elements of it—by the time I reached the credits I felt disturbed and confused as to what exactly happened. Director Evan Glodell’s debut is an indie-drama about two best friends, Woodrow and Aiden, who spend their spare time tinkering with a flamethrower and car to make them awesome. When Woodrow falls in love with a girl, Milly, things get complicated, and a downward spiral of revenge that starts with Milly cheating on Woodrow ends with an implied rape and suicide.
The acting was probably the best part of the film, as it allowed me to relate to the characters. As a 19-year old male, I could understand Woodrow’s testosterone and emotional confusion. The story, however, was the source of some problems. The movie is written with a kind of minimalistic realism that communicates important plot points by implication. In the first half of the movie, this realism and ambiguity are assets, but when the movie ends and I’m not sure if a woman has just been raped and murdered or if it was all in somebody’s head, it just leaves me feeling confused and upset. Hopefully, viewers will be able to get more out of the film that I did—but if you’re wondering if it’s worth the gamble, don’t bother.
IT SEEMED LIKE the perfect formula: One action movie actor, plus two well-known movie stars, plus a heated romance between a pretty girl and the action star, equals box office success, right? Wrong. If there has ever been a fluffy action movie, then it’s Killer Elite.
Based on a true story, the movie is about secret organizations and illegal wars in the 1980s. When hit man Danny (Jason Statham) agrees to do one last job to save his mentor Hunter (Robert De Niro), elite, secret organization member Spike (Clive Owen) tries to stop Danny at all costs.
While the film’s premise is intriguing, all of the interest ends there. There were no revelations in the movie, turn of events, and character development. The romance between Danny and his lover comes out of nowhere and isn’t explored. Much of the film felt choppy and disjointed, as if the producers picked up what was on the cutting room floor and showed that instead of a flowing, transitional story.
Killer Elite is a one-trick pony relying on well-rehearsed, impressive fight scenes to get through the movie—even the acting from De Niro and Owen couldn’t make it great. The movie had no substance and was entirely an one-dimensional action movie. I guess someone made a mathematical error with that formula.