Posts Tagged ‘action’

Release date: September 16th, 2011

Running time: 100 minutes

Written by: Hossein Amini

Based on: The novel “Drive” by James Sallis

Directed by: Nicholas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, and Bryan Cranston

Drive has been one of my most anticipated films of the year for a long time. I still haven’t seen any of director Nicholas Winding Refn’s other films, but the trailers were bursting with style. I’m a huge admirer of Ryan Gosling and looked forward to seeing him tackle an action movie. On top of that, the film has been receiving rave reviews from critics. It was even nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Refn won Best Director. So now the question is, does Drive live up to the hype?

The story is simple. Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed getaway driver who also works as a stunt car driver and at a local garage. “The Driver” has a strict code for his work. He waits five minutes, no more. He doesn’t help with the job and he won’t work with you again. He’s a driver, he drives. “The Driver” works for Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who gets “the Driver” various criminal jobs throughout the city. Early on in the film, “the Driver” develops an intimate relationship with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benecio (Kaden Leos). Irene’s husband (Oscar Isaac) has just completed a sentence in jail, and when released, he entangles “the Driver” within a complex web of crime. Other actors play prominent roles such as Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, and James Biberi.

Despite the simplicity of the story, the script is very well crafted. The crime story is pretty interesting, and it is enjoyable to watch the relationship between “the Driver”, Irene, and Benecio unfold. There is minimal dialogue in the film, characters only speak when necessary. Some may be bored by the lack of dialogue, but personally, I couldn’t have been happier. So many films have so much unnecessary dialogue that more often than not just points out the obvious. Drive trusts that it’s audience can figure out what’s going on without the characters constantly explaining everything. When characters do speak, the dialogue is good, but straight forward. Once again, this straight forward approach is not a problem, it’s actually very helpful given the film and it’s story.

Ryan Gosling is an excellent actor, but I feel he isn’t being given the proper respect for his performance as “the Driver”. I think the main reason is that his role isn’t a “showy” one. He doesn’t have lots of dialogue and he does seem, at first glance, like a simplistic character. His character is very reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s”Man With No Name.” His character is something of an enigma. We don’t know too much about him. He’s a silent badass who wanders through and changes things for everyone. As the film progresses, you begin to see the darker side of “the Driver.” These moments are incredible and Gosling plays them to perfection. Gosling’s name better be considered when award season starts. It’s also interesting to note that Gosling speaks less than 20 sentences in the film, yet leaves an unforgettable impression.

The supporting cast is also very impressive. Bryan Cranston is very good as Shannon. He’s very likable and you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. Carey Mulligan is also very good as Irene, “the Driver’s” love interest. Like Gosling, Mulligan has to rely mostly on body language and facial expression, which she pulls of quite well. Of course it’s the criminals who really stand out. Albert Brooks plays the sophisticated crime lord Bernie Rose. He’s very charming and likable, but also very threatening. In all honesty it’s hard to take your eyes off him. Ron Perlman plays Bernie’s partner Nino. While Perlman doesn’t quite hold up to Brooks, he’s still very good and threatening in his own way. The entire cast does a very good job though. All of the characters are interesting in their own ways.

But the real star of the film is director Nicholas Winding Refn. Refn took the script and turned it into a director’s playground. Drive is a very stylish film with a fine handle on tone and atmosphere. Refn also paces the film in a smart way. The first half is slow, but it introduces you to the characters, as you invested in their lives, and the story begins to progress. This means that in the second half when s*** hits the fan, there audience has genuine attachment to the characters. Some may find the first half overly slow. Admittedly most of the first half is about the relationship between “the Driver”, Irene, and Benecio. But I loved these scenes. The juxtaposition between the lighter scenes and the darker story turns later on gives the film a big boost.

The film is even very successful on a technical level. The cinematography is gorgeous. The film has a very gritty look and the camera movements are really impressive, especially during the action scenes. I also loved the score by Cliff Martinez, who scored Contagion earlier this year. The film also makes good use of source music, particularly the song “A Real Hero” by College. The editing is also quite good. I’ve already mentioned the tight pacing, but scenes are also cut together in a way that really amps up the tension.

Those expecting action beats minute to minute may be disappointed. Drive sets out to be a good film first, and a good action film second. That said, the action in the film is spectacular. Scenes that jump to mind include a violent confrontation in an elevator and a bloody shoot-out. And of course, with a name like Drive, the car chases are all great. The first car chase I found especially impressive. Mainly because it wasn’t just about speed, but also about suspense. It’s also fun to watch character’s have to rely on their brains during a chase instead of just trying to go the fastest.

Film critic Xan Brooks of the Guardian described Drive as his guilty pleasure at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. While I appreciate what Xan is trying to say, I don’t like his use of the term “guilty pleasure,” implying that Drive is an enjoyable film, but not a good one. But Drive is a good film. In fact, Drive is an excellent film. Nicholas Winding Refn took a simple story and proved that execution is everything. I adore every second of this film, easily among the best of the year.

Rating: A+

Release date: August 13th, 2010

Written by: Edgar Wright and Marc Platt

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman

I remember the first time I saw the trailer for this film. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, this looks insanely stupid.” Then I realized it was from director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). That caught my interests. I really enjoyed Wright’s earlier films, but even so, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this. Then after it hit theaters, it started getting great reviews from critics (including this blogs own HT Schuyler). So at this point I figured I’d have to check it out eventually. In fact, I was rather looking forward to it. Once I got over the rather unusual premise, I actually was pretty excited. But now that I’ve seen it, was my hype justified, or should I have stuck with my general impression?

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World tells the story of you guessed it, Scott Pilgrim (Micheal Cera). Scott is an awkward young man living in Toronto. He is the bassist for an indie rock band, Sex Bob-Omb. Scott has been in depression since his girlfriend Envy Adams (Brie Larson) dumped him and signed her band to a major record label. In an effort to escape his funk, Scott begins dating Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a high school student. While Knives is crazy about Scott, Scott feels little for her and she’s more there because she’s easy and convenient. But that changes when Scott sees Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He soon falls in love with her and invites her to attend the battle of the bands that Sex Bob-Omb is playing at. While Sex Bob-Omb is playing, Scott is attacked by Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha). Patel reveals that he is Ramona’s ex-boyfriend and the first in a league of seven evil ex-boyfriends. And thus we came to the real plot of the film. In order for Scott to date Ramona, he has to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends first.

So as I said earlier, it took me awhile to get over the premise. I mean, it’s a really bizarre story that won’t appeal to everybody. If you can’t get over the premise, you won’t like this movie, plain and simple. Personally, once I got over the story, I actually really liked it. It’s actually a nice metaphor about relationships, and how one is competing with their partners exes. Granted, the metaphor isn’t perfect seeing as Scott just uses brute force (for the most part) to overcome the exes. But, I don’t really find this a problem. This isn’t the type of film you watch for deep insight on relationships.

The cast is led by Michael Cera. Playing the title character, the movie really rests on his shoulders. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really do a good job. I don’t entirely blame Cera mind you, as I found the written character to be really annoying. TheĀ  character isn’t that interesting and he isn’t likable at all. I didn’t care if he beat the evil exes or not and I could care less about his relationship with Ramona. Speaking of Ramona, I found her to be incredibly boring and uninteresting. So when you talk two characters I don’t care about and put them in a relationship you have a lot of me not caring. Their relationship is ultimately really shallow and they don’t really have any chemistry. I can’t understand why they’re even together or why Scott feels so in love with her. For me, for a film like this to work, you need to be able to cheer for your lead character and want the central relationship to work out. With both these things missing from this, I found little to latch onto.

The supporting cast fares a lot better. One of my favourites was Scott’s gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin). Most of the laughs I got in this came from him. He was just a really funny, likable, memorable character. The other great supporting characters came from the seven evil exes. While not all of them were great (the Katayanagi twins come to mind) the ones I liked, I liked a lot. Two in particular stood in my mind as favourites. One being Chris Evans as Lucas Lee, a skateboarder and action star. The other is Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram, the bassist for Envy’s band the Clash at Demonhead. Both these characters, like Wallace, were really funny, likable, and memorable. Hell, during the fights against Pilgrim, I was cheering for them. I had a lot more fun with the evil exes then I did Scott or Ramona.

Two elements that I’ve always shined through in Edgar Wright’s films are humor and action. First, let’s talk about humor. While I found Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz to be really funny, this…wasn’t. Like, I got a few chuckles here and there, but not a lot of big laughs. And it’s not like the film doesn’t try. It does, really hard. And while some jokes and gags do work here, a lot don’t. One of the films attempts at humor is the use of onscreen visual tics. These include sound effects (Adam West Batman style), subtitles when loud music is playing and the characters can’t be heard, hearts when people kiss, etc. These never really bothered me, they were just kind of awkwardly there. While I did say earlier that a few of the characters made me laugh, over all, the humor in this is severely lacking.

Action on the other hand is completely the opposite. The action scenes here are awesome and are easily the highlight of the film. Usually in a movie when I don’t care about the lead character, I tend to tone out during action scenes. But the fight scenes here were just so incredibly done that I couldn’t help but be impressed. This is also where the films unorthodox style comes in handy. These scenes were beautiful to look at, well choreographed, fast-paced, and intense.

So overall, I wasn’t to impressed with Scott Pilgrim. As much as I enjoyed the action scenes, without good lead characters, there isn’t much to latch onto. Plus, the film isn’t really as funny as it should be. I feel like this could have been a really fun film, but as it stands, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an uninteresting film elevated by some fun supporting characters and good action scenes.