Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Drive - 3 1/2 stars

Ryan Gosling plays Driver, and he, well, drives cars. During the day, he is a stunt driver for movies. At night, he works as a getaway driver for criminals. The opening scene shows him displaying his skills as he evades police throught the streets of Los Angeles. It is a very exciting sequence.

Then the movie slows down for a bit. Driver lives in an apartment building, and a woman (Carey Mulligan) and her young son live nearby. He gets to know them and a friendship develops. Eventually he feels protective over her. Another job he has is as a car mechanic. He works at a shop run by Bryan Cranston, who gets him work as a getaway driver.

Driver doesn't talk much. There are scenes where he doesn't say a word, and when he eventually does, it seems like a struggle for him to speak. For the first half of the movie, he seems completely harmless. Then when he is required to defend himself, we find out he is a lethal killing machine. When the violence happens, it is shocking. I can't remember a movie that made the violence so real. Something about the way it is filmed, the sound effects, and the acting that makes it seem so real.

There are a couple of gangsters in the movie played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. It is really nice to see Brooks playing against type, and he creates a great villain. He is so good in this movie that I can't wait to see it again, just for his performance.

This is one of those movies that rewards patience. It isn't a fast paced action movie like The Fast and the Furious movies. There is some good action, but the movie is more of a drama. Action without well developed characters can easily get boring. Even though this movie moves slowly, it is never boring, and the small amount of action is really exciting.

Straw Dogs - 3 stars

James Marsden and Kate Bosworth star as David and Amy Sumner, a young hollywood couple (he's a screenwriter, she's an actress). They move to Blackwater, Mississippi, the town where Amy grew up. Her father just died, and they are going to live in his house. The roof needs to be repaired, so they hire a crew of local handeymen, led by Amy's old high school boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard).

At first, David enjoys experiencing the deep south for the first time. He looks at the locals almost like he is observing some exotic species. He has probably only seen small southern townsfolk in movies, so he is delighted to be there. But little by little, Charlie and his crew start harrassing David and Amy. At first they do things like blast their music too loud while David is trying to write. As the movie progresses, the harrassment gets more obvious, and David is too afraid to say or do anything about it until it is almost too late.

This is a remake of the 1971 movie directed by Sam Peckinpah, with Dustin Hoffman playing the role of David. I never saw that movie, so I can't compare this remake to the original. I thought James Marsden did a great job. Ever since he stopped playing Cyclops in the X-Men movies, he has turned in much more entertaining performances. On the other hand, I don't think I have ever enjoyed a Kate Bosworth performance. She doesn't give a horrible performance, but I have never found her characters likeable. She doesn't ruin the movie, but as an audience we need to feel some empathy for these characters, and I just didn't care what happened to Amy.

James Woods is a lot of fun to watch. He plays Coach, the former high school football coach who is also the town drunk. He has a hot young daughter, and a mentally challenged young man named Jeremy has a crush on her. Jeremy is a little bit like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, and we get the impression that he did something to someone a long time ago. Coach thinks Jeremy is dangerous, and beats up on Jeremy every chance he gets.

The climax of the movie involves a home invastion. Watching the trailers, I assumed that Charlie and his gang were psychos and the climax would be all about them trying to kill David and Amy. But the movie sets it up better than that. There is a reason Charlie and his gang are trying to break in to David and Amy's home. It involves Jeremy, Coach, and Coach's daughter. It makes it a believable scenario, and I liked that. As David and Amy try to defend themselves, things turn violent, and that entire sequence was handled very well. The violence was a lot of fun and it made the movie a very satisfying thriller.