Taylor Sardoni’s Contrarian Conundrums: Drive

A Special Note of Explanation from the Editor: Taylor Sardoni’s Contrarian Conundrums is a new column, written by local cinephile Taylor Sardoni in response to the reviews presented in The Strawberry Criterion.  Layman’s terms: I liked Drive, Taylor Sardoni did not.  This is his justification of that not liking.  Thanks again to Taylor for his input and valued opinion.

This is a picture of Carmen and me before Drive was released (I’m on the right, note the shades, respect and love the shades).  We were excited, and my girlfriend Surfer Eliza there in the background was excited.  I’d been tracking the progress of the film for nine years when I read about Nicholas Winding Refn winning Best Director at Cannes, and my anticipation intensified.  I compiled my most Anticipated Movies List for Fall 2011 and Drive was #2, after The Muppets.  Basically, I was very much looking forward to this film.  When I saw it there were moments of enjoyment and I didn’t totally hate it (the soundtrack is unbelievable), but my expectations weren’t met.  Carmen was curious why.

“But I loved it?” Carmen asked in text message.

“Of course you did because you’re a big moron,” I responded.

It goes without saying that Carmen is a big moron that would rather sit in his boxers and blog and cry about how expensive rooms in Atlantic City are and how there’s no pure soy vegetarian chicken fingers in his freezer to his mom, but that doesn’t justify my thoughts about Drive, at least not fully.

First, the movie is empty.  It’s the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark without any of the boxes or scaffolds or pallets or forklifts or workers in it.  Judging by the promos and articles, Drive was conceived as a character-driven crime thriller.  What transpired on the screen was the inverse, a convolutedly-plotted music video that over-extended itself by trying to be a hyper-stylized anti-superhero movie.  And truth is, it is a really fun art-house action movie with one of the best soundtracks ever, but the second half’s action and violence and plotting are ludicrous.

When I was a substitute elementary school teacher at Citta, the kids would ask my name, and I wouldn’t say Mr. Sardoni, Mr. T, Mr. Sub.  I would say Mr. Cool.  I know cool from un-cool, and what’s un-cooler than being cool for cool’s sake?  That’s what Drive amounts to: being cool for cool’s sake, instead of being great for great’s sake.  The hallmarks of art-house cinema are characters with depth, plots that convey an emotion and a story.  Drive was a movie where every character appeared to be on cough syrup, a plot that seemed only to set up graphic set pieces, which would be fine, if the opposite wouldn’t have made for a far superior film.  Meh-fest.

Tsar Stars: Three out of Four Tsar Stars