CANNES CHECK: ‘Drive’

Posted by · 3:34 pm · May 10th, 2011

The director: Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark)

The talent: Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan — the latter making her first significant foray into multiplex territory — are the star attractions here, but the supporting cast isn’t too shabby, either: Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and current TV darlings Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston are all on board. The screenplay, adapted from a James Sallis novel, has a rather unexpected name attached to it: Hossein Amini, an Oscar nominee for 1997’s “The Wings of the Dove.” Reliable Hollywood workhorse Newton Thomas Sigel (“Three Kings,” “X-Men”) is the DP; Cliff Martinez, best known for his collaborations with Steven Soderbergh, did the score.

The pitch: The most overtly mainstream film in Competition this year, “Drive” seemingly marks subversive Danish genre stylist Winding Refn’s shift into the realm of slam-bang Hollywood action, via the classic subgenre of the car-chase thriller. Gosling plays a movie stunt driver moonlighting as a hired getaway driver for assorted Los Angeles criminals. After one botched job for the husband of his attractive neighbor (Mulligan), he is forced to drive for his life and hers. The synopsis (and indeed the little footage we’ve seen) promises an old-school, hard-boiled entertainment in the vein of early Walter Hill or Michael Mann; not the sort of thing we usually expect to see vying for the Palme d’Or, and no less welcome for that.

The pedigree: This is Winding Refn’s first time competing at Cannes, or indeed any major European festival; the closest he came before this was a competition slot at Sundance for his aggressively stylized criminal biopic “Bronson.” Still, his inclusion this year was widely applauded: over such films as “Valhalla Rising” and the “Pusher” trilogy, he’s acquired a cult following, as well as enough detractors to qualify him as a vital, thorny auteur.

The buzz: Advance hopes that the film could turn out to be that rarest of beasts — an intelligent Hollywood actioner — were buttressed by a sensational two-minute clip released on the Cannes website that suggested neither the high-end stars nor their offbeat director had succumbed out to lazy audience-pandering. “Drive” is sufficiently atypical a choice on the part of Thierry Frémaux to make you wonder what he knows that we don’t — does the film contain a hidden twist on the genre it appears to fall into, or is it a rare and exemplary example of the form? Programming it in the second week of the fest could prove beneficial: audiences will be hungry for a little popcorn fun by then.

The odds: However good it might be, it’s hard to imagine a straight-up action pic taking the world’s premier art-film prize, but then, this year’s jury is perhaps a little more mainstream in its makeup as usual. (And who knows, maybe Robert De Niro harbors very fond memories of his car-chase potboiler “Ronin.”) If the film is a hit on the Croisette, a runner-up prize (or Best Actor for Gosling, a credible movie star now ripe for such an honor) of some sort wouldn’t come as a total surprise, as if to say the festival can still get down.

 




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10 responses so far

  • 1 5-10-2011 at 8:02 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Maybe Gosling will get that Oscar nod he was deprived of last year.

  • 2 5-10-2011 at 8:04 pm

    Jasper said...

    The inclusion of this movie gave me the biggest WTF reaction out of all entrants, but it does look good.

  • 3 5-10-2011 at 8:50 pm

    Jasper said...

    Also, thanks for this awesome, awesome series.

  • 4 5-11-2011 at 5:08 am

    JJ1 said...

    I’m still slightly befuddled that Gosling has been nominated once (for the tiny ‘Half-Nelson’) – yet – I found him arguably better in both ‘Lars & the Real Girl’ and ‘Blue Valentine’; somewhat higher profile films.

    He was even nominated by SAG for Lars. That makes me think 2006 was a fairly weak year for Best Actors.

  • 5 5-11-2011 at 5:15 am

    Glenn said...

    Well, we got “Fair Game” last year, so…

  • 6 5-11-2011 at 5:44 am

    JJ1 said...

    Haha, very true ^

  • 7 5-11-2011 at 6:36 am

    Ben M. said...

    Looks good, but I’m not sure it will be as mainstream as the write-up suggests, after all Winding Refn’s previous films were hardly blockbusters, this is coming from an indie studio, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets a limited release. I would also say Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was a bigger step into multiplex territory for Mulligan.

  • 8 5-11-2011 at 7:01 am

    SoSueMe said...

    Ryan’s snub for Lars was one of the biggest Academy snubs (in the acting categories anyway) in the last ten years…if he had gotten the nom, I think he would have been the real runner-up to Daniel Day-Lewis, instead of George Clooney.

  • 9 5-12-2011 at 3:05 am

    Spudley said...

    While Carey Mulligan got multiplex exposure in Wall Street; Money Never Sleeps as Ben M. has stated, it was very much a wet blanket of a role. My hope is that her role in this film does her talent justice and allows her natural charm to shine through.

  • 10 5-12-2011 at 10:13 am

    Cordy said...

    I really hope this movie is as good as it seems. The cast is amazing, Refn is due for a true breakout movie, and that clip has an amazing feel to it. I can’t wait for it