Drive (2011) - a review
By Joe Harvey
Drive is a 2011 adaptation of James Sallis’ novel of the same name.
It is a neo-noir crime film centred around an unnamed mechanic-stroke-stunt driver-stroke-getaway driver.
After a heist backfires, he is left with a million dollars, and some angry individuals who have to wait for payday. The Driver wants to deliver the money with as few repercussions as possible. However, when one is dealing with Mafioso affiliates, that is easier said than done. Whilst protecting his neighbours, the wife and son of Standard Gabriel, the man who lost his life in the heist, The Driver leaves a bloody trail en route to Jewish mobster Nino, the ‘rightful’ recipient of the money, in a film which relies heavily on stylish aesthetics and resourceful violence, to paper over the cracks in the narrative.
Exciting, yes. Compelling, less so. When The Driver is not t-boning a car off the road, or holding a nail against a man’s cranium, hammer poised, we are told so little about him, it is difficult to comprehend his sudden thirst for violence. Given that the first act takes up half an hour, the characterisation is flimsy.
We are given an anti-hero, a mentor in his boss Shannon, and a main villain in Nino, however they each have a distinct lack of depth. In essence, the film lacks enough subplots to tell us who the characters are, and to create rationality for their actions.
An exciting opening sequence teases an intimate insight into the life of The Driver, however the thrills are then put on pause for thirty minutes.
Another weakness of the script is present in its structure. Nino is established as a conceited villain who once broke Shannon’s pelvis when he tried to overcharge him. However, The Driver dispatches of him with ease, drowning him on their first meeting. What should be an ordeal, culminates with The Driver never really having his back against the wall.
On the road back, The Driver meets with Bernie Rose, the shapeshifting business partner of Nino. They make a deal and prepare to exchange the money. Rose stabs The Driver, but apparently not as deep as The Driver stabs him, leaving him dead next to the money. The Driver then does what he does best, and drives off through the night.
Having already disposed of the primary villain, we see a predictable brawl between a young stuntman and an aging businessman.
With such an uneventful first act, more time could have been dedicated to the trials of The Driver, perhaps through the suffering of a career-threatening injury, which would then make us question his ability to seize the elixir, rather than cruise to it in third gear.