Dane Nicolas Winding Refn, who made a name for himself as an idiosyncratic, highly artistic auteur filmmaker with "Bleeder," "Pusher," "Valhalla Rising," here steps into Hollywood's pay to direct an action film for which Hossein Amini wrote the screenplay based on the novel by James Sallis. Pure industrial work. But how Refn goes about it is quite capable of being engaging, at least in the first phase.
The story itself is a very common one. A stunt rider, the Driver, played by Ryan Gosling, takes over the driving job at a rupture for the sake of a neighbor and her boys for her husband, who has just been released from jail. In the process, a lot of things go wrong, he gets into criminal webs, as it can happen in such situations. This results in fast car chases.
Previously, the driver could be observed in his job as an occasional stunt driver in film shoots or sometimes as a getaway driver in bank robberies, most of the time he works in a garage and the garage owner freely tells the neighbor that he totally exploits him, that he pays him less than half of what other employees receive. In general, the driver is very secretive. At least that's what Winding Refn's production claims impressively in the introductory scene. How he sits totally controlled at the wheel, very calm the eyes, very calm the face. A mysterious figure as motionlessly focused as Alain Delon as an ice-cold angel. And how Refn puts this into the picture, what light plays, yes what true light orgies he stages, not to intoxicate the viewer, but to let the face of the protagonist appear as if chiseled in light. That in the middle of the pulsating metropolis L.A. Its light literally lifts the contours of the figures into the plastic, 3D superfluous. This light makes the colors all look like they've been freshly washed off.
The driver's first drive is a criminal one. He waits for two crooks who have made a robbery, he knows exactly how much time he has, when and where the roadblocks will be set up, and exactly where he has to go through to land safely in the crowd of people streaming into a soccer stadium in the parking garage. Meticulously planned, meticulously executed. Then leisurely against the current. Leaving the area just before the police cordons set in. This is breathtaking filmed by Refn. Every film student should look at this carefully and several times.
He also poses alone with the light, the actor himself just has to hold still – and looks good too – but maybe Refn gave him other instructions, but it's the light that brings out the driver's reflectiveness, his deliberateness, which makes him so fascinating. Before loud light I hardly paid attention however to the background music, which was very discreet and more often this tube music, and strangely at the end, God knows why, became stupidly blaring, like the cork popping after a won car race.
Refn takes his time at the beginning. The silent ride in the elevator in a high apartment house where the driver lives. Here he meets his neighbor. Silently they both drive up to a floor far above. You do not know each other yet. She too, Irene played by Carry Mullighan, is beautiful because she doesn't speak, doesn't do anything, because she is just bathed in Refn's magical light, beautiful as women in Hollywood can only be beautiful. Later he meets them again in the supermarket.
One could almost speak of an eroticism of Refn's camera, with Newton Thomas Sigel responsible for the camera itself, which develops it into its object, delicately stroking it, or rather, immersing it in an irresistible light. Whereby the frequent moviegoer fears in the first hour already anxiously, a whole film long of hundred and a few minutes holds nobody through that.
The driver meets Irene again in the supermarket. He helps her carry the groceries, rides up with her in the elevator, takes her to her apartment. The boy, whose father is still in prison, puts on a kind of Halloween mask and, this is really a funny joke, there the Driver shows humor, because he often has a toothpick in his mouth, but quite discreetly, and offers the boy a toothpick, which of course the boy can not possibly use through the larval mouth.
Scary, that was one of the first understandable words spoken by the Driver – at the sight of the mask. Could also have been the theme for the movie. The driver is in L.A. "For a while".
Cuddly cinema but not without humor. The driver's conversations with his agent follow, a former stunt driver who also runs the garage and arranges jobs and limps along – clearly, typical former stunt driver one thinks. Before he takes the neighbor for a spin, the sentence: "there are no wheels on my car".
Splash into the riverbed. Idyll at running water, mother, child, neighbor. Somewhere, somehow nice, familiar – but here the driver starts to lose his secret. The seduction by the family is too great. They also make a nice picture as a nuclear family when he carries the son-man. Soon daddy is to get out of jail. He gives a lavish party and at least it is not jealousy that happens, but the two men even spar together. Dad hires the driver for that very deadly gig, which is planned as a trap for the former jailbird.
It's all downhill from there. The driver has the money now. But he wants to take down the people who were after the jailbird. To do this, he must first threaten the woman who came marching out of the store with the purse unhindered. Meanwhile, the ex-con was then shot from another beefy car. Now the driver, who is not a killer, unlike Delon, gets more and more into the clutches and webs of crime and with him Refn also starts to smear. Now there is no more atmosphere to establish, no more secret to assert. Now we are on the earthly ground of clumsy crime and trash.
The Driver doesn't give a damn, and Refn has already made bloody trashy films beautiful and lets it decidedly and no less violently trashy and knife and bleed and cruel and crush fingers, slit an arm or quite cruelly in the presence of the neighbor a killer in the elevator after a distracting kiss scene, that is now almost tasteless, hurl against the wall and on the floor and kick his head in so that it just cracks. Refn knows nothing there. He probably still thinks he is making art. At the same time, it also blows the last bit of mystery out of the film. Joins an endlessly long line of quite normal crime crash movies. Maybe a little more artistic. But the fact that the book doesn't give more can't be blamed on him. The most you could blame him for is that he filmed the book so well at the beginning, which it doesn't offer at all, and thus raised the expectations too high, even with the excellent cast, who then degenerate into banger characters who get killed off.
The buildup of the family idyll should be seen as the first part of the crumbling of the mystery of film and Driver, also that he thinks that's cool. And they want to meet again next weekend. Irene, by the way, works at a fast food restaurant as a waitress, he meets her there once and she has a sign with her name on it.
Cutting saw blade music. The robbery, which seems to get out of hand, happens at "Money to Loan" "PawnShop", the murder was brought to the news as the "Valley Killing".