The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Why you should think twice before taking someone to see Drive

with 26 comments

About 30 minutes into Drive I knew I had made a mistake.

What had I been thinking, bringing a corridor neighbor from my work, the middle-aged secretary of the board, who hadn’t been to a theatres for years?

I saw her curled up in a fetal position, hands firmly covering her face. When the movie was over she turned to me and giggled in what obvious was a shock reaction.

“Well now you could perhaps tell me what happened?”

Searching for a companion
It was greed that had led us there. I don’t do downloads, which makes me a frequent cinema visitor. Unlike the main character in Up in the Air I don’t have a full deck of top level bonus cards for loyal customers. But I have one gold level card, and that is for movies. Because of this I sometimes get hold of free prescreening tickets, and this was one of those occasions. I had fetched two like I always do, assuming that I’d find someone among family and friends who would like to come with me. This turned out to not be so easy though, people being busy this night or just not having an interest for Drive.

As I got closer and closer to the showing my desperation increased. The idea of not using this ticket for anything but as a place to put my jacket felt like a waste. If you have a ticket for what you think is a good movie – even one that you haven’t paid for it – it’s your duty to make use of it.

I had almost given up when I noticed that the board secretary was working late. Perhaps she could be a candidate? After all we used to talk about things such as opera, art exhibitions and ballet. At least she had showed a general interest for culture and arts. That should be enough, surely?

I introduced the movie to her, stressing how much claim it had gotten by the critics and that the director had won a prize at Cannes. This certainly wasn’t a dozen-movie. And the leading actor was supposed to be so handsome! I also mentioned that it was known to be violent though, as a disclaimer, just to make sure.

She didn’t seem to object too badly. “As long as it’s exciting”. Thrillers should be that. Action and stuff”.

I assured her that she’d get “action and stuff” and so we went and found ourselves being the only middle-aged women in a salon packed with 15-20 year old boys.

Tipping over
It began smoothly, with a superbly staged cat-and-rat-style car chase. I’m usually not a fan of car chases; most of the time they mostly serve as fillers and I can’t wait for them to end. But this one was something completely different. Elegant, neat and tense at the same time. I had the feeling I was going to like this.

The movie went on for a while, where got to know a little bit more about how Ryan Gosling’s tooth picker munching stuntman and car mechanic lead his life and we could even enjoy a little bit of budding romance between him and his neighbor. It wasn’t particularly disturbing or violent, but I held my breath because I suspected that those warnings about a violent content had been warranted.

And I was right. More or less from one moment to the other, the movie tipped over and suddenly there was brain substance all over the screen and we got to know exactly how it sounds when someone is jumping on a human head until it collapses.

The secretary gasped and hid in her chair. And I felt how the responsibility started to weigh on my shoulders.

Usually I’d label myself as “squishy”, feeling uneasy if someone as much as slaps another person in the face. But this time I needed to keep my fingers away from my eyes as much as possible. After all someone needed to see what happened so that she could tell the other one about it afterwards and there was no doubt about that this person needed to me.

So I told myself that my sensitivity was just something I imagined. I was already doing the ride and I could as well try to enjoy it.

Did this act of self suggestion work? Well, fairly well. I managed to keep my hands under control and watch most of it, and I could share details with the secretary afterwards such as “I and then he took a hammer and a nail and threatened to hammer it into the other guys head” (even if I’m unsure of if that was any helpful to be honest.)

My rating
So I got through it, but what did I make of it? Well, there are two things that keep it from getting a 5/5 rating from me. One is – surprise, surprise – the excessive violence. While I understand why it’s there, I wonder if it still wouldn’t have been possible to tune it down a little. Just a tiny little bit. I don’t think it would have lost anything. You don’t need to show everything straight on in the picture to make us “get” what is happening. We see a brilliant example of this: a fight scene that is only displayed through the shadows on the ground. It’s a beautiful, elegant and efficient solution. A little bit more of that creative thinking maybe could have saved us a little bit of brain substance.

My second minor quibble is about one of the supportive actors, Ron Perlman, whose gangster felt a little bit over the top to me. But it’s really just a minor thing and I bet there are many who would disagree with me.

Drive is one of the best films I’ve seen in a theatre this year. Violent or not, it’s so incredibly well crafted. The story isn’t original, but the execution is, and that was what I told the theatre staff who was standing outside the cinema, asking us about what we thought of it.

The next morning I met my colleague at the coffee machine and I looked anxiously at her face for a sign. Had she dreamed nightmares all the night? Had I caused her such a trauma that she’d never go to the movies again? Was she angry with me? But I needn’t have feared.

Her eyes were excited as she smiled to me.

“Wow, that movie we watched last night… it was really… quite something! So different! I’ve never seen anything like it before!”

“Me neither”, I answered, truthfully.

Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, US, 2011) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

November 22, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Drive

26 Responses

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  1. Drive is definitely the film that film buffs love. It’s unlike anything out there right now though it’s really just a take on films like Taxi Driver and Le Samourai. Because of the film, it gave me an idea for a new script, as I’ve finally finished one late last night, which I can focus now though it’s still in its outline stage.

    Steven Flores

    November 22, 2011 at 1:15 am

    • A new script? I had no idea you wrote that as well. Now you make me curious. You’re very productive, sir!


      November 22, 2011 at 7:56 am

  2. As you know Jessica, DRIVE is up there as film of the year for me, on so many levels. The direction, the score, the performances and also the violence.

    Did you see Refn explaining why the violence is there on BBC News? Watch Mulligan’s face….

    Scott Lawlor

    November 22, 2011 at 11:10 am

    • I hadn’t seen it. That’s quite hillarious! Thanks for sharing!


      November 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm

  3. A friend advised me to see the movie. Together with your praising review I probably should 🙂

    Looking up the director I see he directed Valhalla Rising. Now, that movie was a real disappointment to me while others loved it. His newest movies seems to have a more general appeal culminating in an imdb top 250 place.


    November 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    • I totally think you should. I haven’t seen Valhalla Rising but I’ve been thinking about it. Rewatching that viking movie recently gave me the idea. But if you didn’t like it it’s a bit worrying. You and I tend to share tastes a lot. Well, we’ll see.


      November 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      • Just got around to watching it and it is very good. Not good enough to deserve the IMDB top 250 rating it now has but I really liked it. Gosling is well on his way to become a great actor and the movie is very stylish.

        As for the violence, it wasn’t excessive in my books. I’m used to this kind of thing, Asian movies don’t shy away from violence as much as US movies do.


        December 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm

        • Stylish is the word! I’ve seen a lot of Gosling lately, perhaps too much, but it has given me the opportunity see what a diversive actor he is.


          December 12, 2011 at 12:24 am

  4. Excellent, fascinating review. I haven’t seen it yet, but I know I need to. I’m squirmy too, but I made it through the awful Bleeding House, so I think I’m ready.


    November 22, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    • Thank you very much! Just be prepared. Keep your hands ready to take cover when needed. And enjoy the ride!


      November 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm

  5. “I saw her curled up in a fetal position, hands firmly covering her face.”

    This be pretty much how I reacts when the Tiz and her coworkers talk about the stuff they deals with in the hospital. Sometimes is whimpering too. She thinks it be freakin’ hilarious…


    November 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    • I know the feeling. Some things you just don’t want to know about. You wantto be like one of those monkeys. See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing.


      November 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm

  6. Just had to say I loved reading this review. Nice work.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    November 23, 2011 at 10:59 am

  7. While this seems to be everyone’s favourite of the year, there are actually others I’d like to see more than this: namely MELANCHOLIA and SHAME, two films I’m planning on seeing no matter what the cost. But this one has to be up there too with all the good things everyone’s been saying about it.


    November 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    • I don’t think it’s the favorite of my year, but it will probably end up on my top 10. I loved Melancholia. I haven’t seen Shame and I’m afraid it’s not coming up here until next year.

      Lot’s of good movies this year, aren’t there?


      November 23, 2011 at 10:30 pm

  8. I must say this site is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to visit. I really enjoyed reading this piece. Drive definitely falls in that category of films that I can only recommend to certain people. Granted it is nowhere near as tough to watch as films like Enter the Void or Happiness, which I can only suggest to certain cinephiles, but the violence is abrupt enough to turn a lot of people off the film. Glad you enjoyed it.


    November 25, 2011 at 3:58 am

    • Oh, thank you so very much for your kind words.

      So Enter the Void and Happiness are even more violent? I think Drive pushed the limit for what I can endure. I don’t think I’m enough of a cinephile to endure something worse. But I enjoyed Drive, that’s for sure.


      November 25, 2011 at 7:40 am

  9. […] Drive is not a date movie […]

  10. […] 9. Drive It was so violent that I wanted to hide behind my seat, but at the same time it was so well crafted and stylish that I can’t but admire it. […]

  11. […] I’m not quite sure whether Jessica over at The Velvet Cafe enjoyed it or not, but she sounded positive: “Drive is one of the best films I’ve seen in a theatre this year. Violent or not, it’s so … […]

  12. […] som om jag var typ… sist. Här hittar ni några andra hyllningar: Movies – Noir, Plox, The Velvet Café, Fiffi, Flmr, Fripp och ExceptFear. De enda som är aningen skeptiska är Voldo och […]

  13. This was the best film of last year for me. I absolutely adore this movie. Great review.

    Mark Walker

    April 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    • Thanks Mark! It wasn’t my number one, but it was way up on the list and definitely in my top 10.


      April 22, 2012 at 9:00 am

  14. […] The Velvet Café (4,5/5) […]

  15. […] Refn teaming up again for yet another violence packed movie. I shivered as I thought back at our last encounter, Drive. While I ended up appreciating it for the excellence in craft and execution, it was a […]

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