I’d like to thank the Academy for throwing Drive a Sound Editing nomination, making this blog not totally out of place for our Oscars Week. Of course, Drive was snubbed in several other categories, but that’s a subject we’ll get to later on. Today marks our second Guest Review and our first “Head to Head”, where I provide my rebuttal to someone else’s point of view. Maybe this will become a semi-recurring series. Maybe not. It’s up to you to decide. Send me your reviews at firstname.lastname@example.org – there’s a third coming next week, so we’ll get at least one fresh viewpoint in for three weeks running.
Anyway, here’s friend of the blog Scott Grodsky with his thoughts on Drive, with mine to follow. And vote on the poll at the end if you’ve seen the movie. This was a pretty decisive one, so I’m curious to hear what people thought.
Before I get into my review of The Transporter 4 staring Ryan Gosling, I would first like to thank the gracious host of this blog, Kevin Brown, for allowing me to write this guest review and for thoroughly entertaining me these past two months with these reviews. (Editor’s note: Surprisingly, I did not tell him to say this.)
That being said, I am not like Kevin. I do not wish to be a 70-year-old Oscar voter when I watch movies. I do have a bit of a film nerd in me, and I fear that by talking with Kevin too much that nerd continues to grow. But mostly, I just want to be entertained. (This may explain why I like Ryan Reynolds…) Because of that philosophy, I liked The Transporter 4, but didn’t love it.
Let’s start with the good. The pre-credits scene was simply fantastic. It was well shot and introduced us to the Driver in an effective and entertaining way. All of the driving and the idea of using a game for cover was well done and presented in a much more believable fashion than the previous three Transporter movies. I guess also in the good column is all the artsy stuff that the namesake of this blog loves. Direction, shooting, lighting, and all that other stuff that voters and film snobs care about was all stellar. I also thought Oscar Isaac was great. I do not remember his character’s name so I will refer to him as The Bearded Man. I thought The Bearded Man stood out in every scene he was in. Then again, it’s easy to do because he was the only one who had any actual dialogue.
Which brings me to the negatives. If I wanted to see a silent entertainment, I’d see The Artist or watch Sage Steele on SportsCenter (I mute the TV when she is on). My dear friend Kevin writes in his review of War Horse, “Think of the power of Ryan Gosling, practically mute in Drive. ” What power? When he utters one-word responses to every question, I wonder if part of his backstory is that in one of his car crashes the character had extensive brain damage. People are not that quiet in real life, and again, even if they are, I am watching this movie to be entertained, not lulled to sleep. The only other possible explanation I could come up with for him being practically mute is that the director decided he needed more time for his music videos. Sadly, I did not count them, but I believe between five to seven times the dialogue went completely blank and a random two-minute music video played. Occasionally, I was so bored I heard the Montage song from Team America in my head. The only one of these montages that worked as well as a Matthew Stafford deep ball was the elevator scene.
Finally, I’d have liked some more actual driving from a movie called The Transporter 4: Drive. The same can be said for the action scenes. Action and driving did exist in the movie and what was there was great, but it was rare and very quick when it happened. And I know, the elevator beatdown lasting 10 seconds is far more realistic than Jason Statham inexplicably taking off his shirt and fighting a circle of eight guys, but it’s a movie. Maximus Decimus Meridius understood that I’m here to be entertained. (Ed. note: So did Jay-Z.) That movie is proof that you can have the artsy stuff that Kevin loves so much and win Best Picture while still having action that is far-fetched at best.
I realize as I look over this review that I am being excessively harsh on a movie that I actually did enjoy. I guess in conclusion, I just thought that The Transporter 4 had a real chance to be a movie like Gladiator that appealed to both film snobs and the average person. But in the end, this is a movie for Cannes and other festivals, a movie that people like me can enjoy, but will never re-watch or put on a top 10 list.
First of all, I’d like to thank you, Scott, for your review. Secondly, this movie has absolutely no relation to The Transporter, and I continue to have no idea why you compare it to a bunch of films with lots of guns, lots of explosions, lots of unrealistic Jason Statham fights and little to no plot. (In fairness, I have not seen the Transporter films, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. But I have seen Jason Statham movies, and I have seen the trailers, so I think that’s about all I need. And speaking of the trailers, after just watching the first one…does he really deflect a missile with a plate in the first movie? Seriously?)
I don’t believe the issues you have with Drive are misplaced ones – in fact, they’re probably the same things detractors of the film would say. This has been marketed as a great action picture, when in reality, it’s an often wordless and slow-burning film marked by occasional violent outbursts of action. It’s a similar marketing campaign to Inglourious Basterds, which put forth Brad Pitt and his band of soldiers hunting down Nazis for two hours, and turned into just a lot of Quentin Tarantino dialogue. (Still, it’s a great movie.) So I can’t help but wonder if expectations tempered your enjoyment of the movie.
The great thing about Drive is that it doesn’t need to blow up hundreds of cars to get your attention. Its characters are well-defined and easy to root for or against. While Gosling, the Driver, may not speak much, he can say more with just a look than most actors can with words. His relationship with Irene (Carey Mulligan, who is quickly becoming of my favorite actresses) is a tremendous one despite the lack of dialogue. You can tell how strongly these two feel for each other without needing to be told. You can sense what conflict Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac, terrific) causes upon his return. This is not a film about the action, this is a film about the characters. I haven’t even mentioned Albert Brooks’ great turn as Bernie, a greasy mobster, or Ron Perlman as a member of the Jewish mob, or Bryan Cranston as Shannon, a weary garage man.
When the violence does come in Drive, it comes brutally and vividly filmed. This is a movie full of memorable scene after memorable scene. The elevator scene. The beach scene. Standard’s return. Bernie’s final encounter with Shannon. And the pre-credits opening scene, a ridiculously brilliant and technically superb intro to the movie.
Gosling reminds me here of Clint Eastwood’s character from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – The Man With No Name. He doesn’t need to prattle on and on about his life or his job. He simply has a purpose and carries it out as simply and as quietly as possible. He draws us to the screen even without words. And yes, it’s hard to believe this is the same guy from The Notebook.
About the only thing I didn’t care for in Drive was the soundtrack. If I wanted to hear a bunch of 1980s-sounding synthesizers, I’d watch Top Gun. Otherwise, Drive is damn near perfect. Am I a bit of a film snob? Sure. Do I need lots of stuff blowing up and constant CGI to be entertained? Nope. Was I entertained throughout here? Absolutely.