Winding Refn; screenwriters: Hossein Amini/based
on the novel by
James Sallis; cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel;
editor: Mat Newman;
Martinez; cast: Carey Mulligan (Irene), Ryan
Gosling (Driver), Albert Brooks (Bernie Rose), Nino (Ron
Perlman), Bryan Cranston (Shannon), Oscar Isaac
Kaden Leos (Benicio
Hendricks (Blanche), James Biberi (Cook);
Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Michel Litvak/John Palermo/Gigi Pritzker/Adam Siegel; Film
"The talented Danish filmmaker revs up the action sequences and violence and outdoes the Americans in their specialty of sleazy pulp fiction."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn ("Pusher"/"Valhalla"/"Bronson") was named at the Cannes Film Festival best director for this existential crime film. This slick ultra-stylish action thriller offers only a slight plot, but many plot twists for its senseless yet riveting story. The talented Danish filmmaker revs up the action sequences and violence and outdoes the Americans in their specialty of sleazy pulp fiction and characterization of hopeless romantic dreamers. The good news is that in an odd way it's as enjoyable as let us say a roller coast ride might be for an adventurous kid. The minimalist grindhouse pic strangely has its antihero criminal, a character not of the modern age except for his love of cars, remind us of a chivalrous Knight of the Roundtable, as he without a palpable reason offers himself up as the fall guy to protect a vulnerable lass in a robbery setup. Though not believable for a sec as anything but a movie device, it provides an amusement park fill of thrills for a B movie that wishes to get your blood pulsing. Refn has an arresting way of working the audience for some crowd-pleasing action scenes, lunatic bloody fights, deadly razor slashings and exciting car chases that keep one glued to the screen with fresh eyes, even if it all seems to be done before. It's based on the crime novel by James Sallis and is written by Hossein Amini.
Gosling plays the nameless, laconic, loner, toothpick
chomping and white satin bomber jacket with a
gold scorpion on its back wearing part-time Hollywood
stunt driver, who works days as a garage mechanic for
gimpy former stuntman Shannon (Bryan Cranston)
and moonlights driving getaway cars for armed heists.
In his Echo Park apartment building the stoical Driver
meets his attractive hard-pressed neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), who has a
young son Benicio
(Kaden Leos) and
a husband named Standard (Oscar Isaac) in prison. After a brief
cautious chaste romance between the two outsiders, the
low-level criminal Standard is released from prison.
The ex-con owes mobsters protection money from his
time in jail, and is forced by the mobsters to rob a
pawn shop to pay off his debt or else harm is
threatened to him and his family. To the rescue comes
the 'shining white knight' Driver, who agrees to drive
the getaway car if the mob agrees to lay off Standard
and his family after the heist. Things go tragically
wrong at the robbery site, and we learn the robbery
was orchestrated in secret by a violent pizza store
owner enforcer mobster, Nino (Ron Perlman), who did
this job without approval from his murderous crime
boss Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and wishes to cover
his tracks because he knocked off the wrong folks. We learn that the knife
wielding crime boss Bernie is an ex-producer of B movies
in the 1980s who left the film biz a failure to become
a menacing criminal, and who prior to the heist
dropped three hundred thousand dollars on Shannon to
partner with him on a legit racing car venture where
the Driver is the most valuable team member.
What follows the heist are
cartoonish action sequences of the Driver going on the
attack or defending himself from the numerous goons
trying to eliminate him, and doing it by pulverizing
them in the most bloody way possible with brute force.
It's so outlandish and captivating, and even humorous,
that the bloody violence like the fast cars, the dangerous hoods and the
vulnerable babes is either a homage or parody to the
many action films that it looked like but yet is so
REVIEWED ON 9/16/2011 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ