Drive categorizes itself as a subversion of a genre that, upon reflection, it strives to inhabit. This is a hyper-stylized movie, where characters exhibit limited interiority, pursue hackneyed goals through unlikely means. The music is as loud as it is manipulative. There is unnecessary, graphic violence. Our protagonist is a cipher, a function of a binary world where ambiguity simply does not factor in. He is, for lack of a better term, an action movie hero. But, he is also Ryan Gosling, and instinctively our brains signal: not an action movie hero. This is deliberate, and very, very smart.
Like nearly every choice in Drive, Gosling’s casting was an exogenous validation of artistic credibility that, within the movie, allows the endogenous action movie tropes to operate as art-house tropes without actually being either by actually being both. It’s a subterfuge. It’s a manipulation of fallible audience perceptions and an ersatz recasting of those perceptions through an appeal to what brings the moronic herd to drool and convulse at Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Alternatively, this makes the movie very difficult to like from an objective point of view (A movie that for all intents an purposes should have divided critics currently holds a 93% on the Tomatometer, by the same psychological “ME LIKE THE COLORS AND PICTURES AND SOUNDS HERE” principle that Transformers traffics in, only this is a slightly altered “ME LIKE THE COLORS AND PICTURES AND SOUNDS HERE BUT I’M SMART WHEN I SAY I DO principle). As much as Ryan Gosling’s character works as a metaphor, he’s still a zero, a character without past that operates in a vacuum of coma stares and monosyllabic mumblings. What character wants something different from what they wanted when they were introduced? No one? No one. Why the excessive violence? Why do we need another movie about a empty vessel that drives cars exceedingly well?
The answer to that is logistical: these things are simply more interesting than the converse. From preproduction to the editing, the choices that brought Drive to the screen were not the choices we are accustomed to, and the people behind the film knew that, and used it to their full advantage. The movie not only makes you like things you otherwise shouldn’t, it forces you to ask why you like those things you otherwise shouldn’t. It is not the action movie as an answer; it is an action movie as a question.
What kind of movie is this then? Is it an action movie? Yes (These characters are as shallow as thimbles. Everyone kills everyone for money. Carey Mulligan’s sole character development is a bemused grin.) Is it an art-house movie? Yes (God’s sake, as Gosling’s character kills and approaches his actualization, that actualization is achieved through the acquiescence to the Jungian shadow (In chronological order, plain self killing the two henchman in the bathroom, masked self drowning Nino in the ocean, shadow self stabbing Albert Brooks in the parking lot)). So huh what then now? So huh what then now is that Drive is a movie that doesn’t subvert its genre, nor classification, but embraces its genre and classification so much so that it becomes what everything that knows exactly what it is is: a great movie with an even greater jacket in it.
Strawberry Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 Strawberries