The Old EVIL Scorpion and the Frog Tale in “Drive” reviewed! (Second Sight / Screener)



“Anything Happens in that Five Minues and I’m Yours.”  Drive Limited Edition Boxset at Amazon.com!

A solitary mechanic and movie stunt driver offers his services as a getaway driver for illicit odd jobs.  He falls for his single parenting neighbor and as the two begin their romantic affair, her ex-con lover returns from prison to reintegrate back into her and their son’s life.   When ex-con trouble brews an inescapable situation involving ruthless gangsters calling in their favor for prison protection, the stunt driver involves himself with his moonlighting work but when things go terribly wrong and he becomes a target, everyone he knows and cares for are threatened by the mobsters.  War is waged in the fast lane between the mysterious stunt driver and Los Angeles most feared gangsters for the sake of an innocent mother and her child caught in the middle.

Around 2010-2011, when I first heard of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” starring “The Notebook” and “Lars and the Real Girl’s” Ryan Gosling, I thought to myself, why would I watch this quirky comedy-romance actor drive around in a run-of-the-mill stunt car action film?  Immediately, I wrote off the film penned by “The Four Feathers’” screenwriter Hossein Amini, whose now penning the stories and teleplays of a little Disney+ streaming series you may have heard of called “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”  I now admit it, as painful to my pride as it is, that I was so ignorantly wrong about Refn’s “Drive” that has turned out to be a cult hit present day and a really good and exceptional crime-drama that’s subtle on the dialogue, high on the graphic violence, and all-around superb performances.  The script is the filmic adaptation based off American author James Sallis’s novel of the same title, keeping the neo-noir intact under of guise of muscle car predilection, and is a produced by Gigi Pritzker and Chris Ranta of Oddlot Entertainment (“Buried Alive”), Jonathan Oakes and Gary Michael Walters of Bold Films (“The Neon Demon”), Marc Platt of Marc Platt Productions (“Wanted”), and Motel Movies (“Blue Valentine”). 

To be upfront, Ryan Gosling has never been a go-to movie star for me, personally, so there might have been some psychogenic bias blocker keeping me away from the film over the last decade.  However, over the years, my pallet has grown in diversity and in tastes, chiefly because of influences in my life, and so curiosity got the better of me in wanting to explore the story of and the craft of Ryan Gosling’s character in “Drive.”  The way Gosling portrays the lead, known only as either the Driver or Kid, heavily relies on expression with minimal dialogue and lets all his emotions be poured through his eyes and body language as well as his actions in an anti-charismatic sense that, in a good way, leaves the character unassuming but still confident.  Watching Gosling’s methodical flow through the role and while having a little knowledge of the neurodivergence, it’s not difficult to see that the principal character comes off as a person somewhere on the autism spectrum and doing some post-credits research, I’m not the only one who had the same thought.  Unsociable, quiet, lack of facial expression, and obsessed with routine, especially when moonlighting as a criminal getaway driver with a set of very specific conditions, are just some examples of his behavior that point in the autism direction.  When the driver meets beautiful single parent neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan, “Shame”), that is when we start seeing him deviate from his isolation, from his routine, and become more complex with what was previously a non-existent life, but of course as life blossoms into something new and safe, gangster obstacles rear their ugly head and the criminal in him is forced out for a head on collision.  “Ex Machina’s” Oscar Issacs is the first hurdle as the recently release ex-con dragged back into unscrupulous dealings with unsavory organized crime that climb the latter to “Hellboy’s” Ron Perlman and “Taxi Driver’s” Albert Brooks, business partners who oversee the West Coast turf. Perlman is a natural tough guy, as we’ve seen in countless works stretching over numerous decades and I would have never pictured “The In-Laws” and “Finding Nemo” Albert Brooks to be the minatory type but he does in fact have a dark-twinkle in his eye and can extract the false sense of security out of people before he jabs a fork in their eye and slits their throat…wrist….guts….yeah, his character loves to knife others. The all-star cast rounds out with Bryan Cranston (“Godzilla”) as the Driver’s mob-connected boss-friend-agent and Christina Hendricks (“The Neon Demon”) in a lowkey accomplice role that makes a gruesome, unforgettable impact.

Speaking of “The Neon Demon,” a more recent Nicholas Winding Refn film, you’ll begin to absorb the Denmark-born filmmaker’s stylistic motifs between the two films involving lingering shots, graphic violence, and the integration of electro-pop tracks into an eclectic soundtrack. Many of the scenes convey an emotion through dialogue-less scenes and the soundtrack to contrast actions speak louder than words. However, there is one radical theory of mine that I believe has a firm foundation is that everything from point A to point Z in the story is all in the Driver’s fantasy world. I know “Drive” is a movie and the need to suspend belief is important but only to an extent and depending on the quality derived from the filmmaker. Refn’s a good filmmaker, we know this, but everything the Driver experiences pitches upon pure imagination when the truth is stretched to be in his favor for the length of the feature. First example – the Driver slams into the side of another car head on, but the headlights, front bumper, and ventilation grille are all clearly intact. Second example – a tense-elevator scene involving the Driver, Irene, and a mobster assigned to take the Driver out takes an improbable turn when the Driver turns to Irene, both bathed in the sudden appearance of a spotlight, and they kiss passionately for quite a while. The moment become the perfect opportunity for the goon to blow away his target. Instead, he lets them kiss and then a close-quarter fight ensues shortly after. Third example but not last – the Driver is nearly an unstoppable force with no background to who he really is or why he is in Los Angeles, but he fights like a hardened criminal and knows how to play the organized crime game, never really have bad hand in his deck of cards, and even is given an ambiguous “Shane” ending. So, I ask again, is the beautiful girl, the ripe for the picking off gangsters, and the prodigious skillset all in his head?

I’ve clearly misjudged Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” to be pretty-boy, stock-story, waste of time. Though I’m still not convinced about Ryan Gosling’s acting, like a Supreme Court Judge nowadays, I’m overturning my naive judgement and calling “Drive” a true modern day cult film hiding in plain sight, receiving new life from Second Sight films with an UK limited edition 4K UHF/Blu-ray release as well as a standard 4K and Blu-ray release. Unfortunately, this review covers only a BD-R screener so commenting on the true quality of the image and audio will not be recorded, but release specs include a new 4K master produced by the original post-production company with Refn’s approval, the UHD is presented in Dolby Vision HDR graded by the film’s original colorist, audio options include a Dolby Atmos and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with optional English subtitles, and the 4K UHD are region free while the Blu-rays are region locked encoded on region B. Standard bonus features include a new exclusive commentary by director Nicolas Winding Ren and The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw, a feature length conversation with Refn, editor Mat Newman, and composer Cliff Martinez reminiscing about their sudden post-theatrical career success with “Drive” when the film saw more success on video, Gutting a Getaway – a new interview with Mat Newman, and 3 Point Turns – a new video essay by Leigh Singer. The limited-edition contents include a premium box set with new Driver Scorpion artwork by AllCity, a 240-page hardback book with new essays by various authors, an exclusive interview with “Drive” author James Sallis hosted by Matthew Thrift, original storyboards, stills, behind-the-scenes photos, the original Sallis novel with new AllCity artwork as well, and 7 collectible art cards. What a massive, massive haul for the film that didn’t do great in theaters due to poor financial support by investors who saw the film as a failure. The film has a runtime of 100 minutes and is UK certified 18. Don’t be like me and neglect a chance to see “Drive,” a great piston-pumping and violently beautiful crime-drama paralleled love story that deserves our time, our attention, and everything including the kitchen sink Second Sight Films pumped into the tremendous limited-edition boxset that dropped this week for release!

“Anything Happens in that Five Minues and I’m Yours.”  Drive Limited Edition Boxset at Amazon.com!

A Twisted Heap of Evil. “Accident” review!


Two young women, traveling toward a music festival near Lake Tahoe on a lonely stretch of isolated Californian road, hitch a ride with a pair of seemingly harmless guys with a fast, expensive car. Their elated joyride goes south when the car flips over during a torrential downpour and crashes near the edge of a lake adjacent cliff, but this isn’t just any car these kids have completely wrecked. The car is stolen and belongs to a powerful criminal kingpin hellbent on getting the car back in his malefactor grips. With being pinned under the upside down car, sustaining serious injuries, and being accomplices to grand theft auto of a wired traced car, the odds of survival are slim and time is running out as henchmen move into retrieval mode to track down the stolen car and kill anyone they come across involved.

“Cheeseburgers and Ryan Gosling.” That direct quote fairly sums up the Dan Tondowski written and director action thriller titled unambiguously as “Accident.” The 2017 feature is Tondowski’s debut feature film; in fact, it’s his own credited feature film that embraces, or maybe just mirrors, the action sequenced camerawork of Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, director of “Wanted” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer.” Tondowski begins his film impressively enough with a long take, nearly 7 minutes, of setting up the two women, Jess and Caroline, into their catalytic moment that forces into hitchhiking. After that, “Accident” becomes strictly popcorn cinema on a downward slop of insufferable filmmaking that maintains an afloat affliction with moderately entertaining special effects that include a slow motion car crash, an intense helicopter crash, and a 50 caliber machine gun.

Each and every single character in “Accident” was written without an ounce of redeeming value and Stephanie Schildknecht (“Death Race 2”) and Roxane Hayward (“Death Race: Inferno”), who were Jess and Caroline in the film, couldn’t rile up a brief moment why the plight bestowed upon them should have not have happened to them. The suspicion of how Schildknecht and Hayward received their roles might be due to the fact that they both look damn good in a bikini and black lingerie, featured when they strip to the said garments in a gas station bathroom during an back and forth dialogue. Don’t know why they removed their clothes, but that was certainly an aesthetic highlight. Tyrone Keogh (“Death Race 2” – if you haven’t noticed, three out of the four main stars have been in “Death Race” sequels) and Keenan Arrison portray the two car thieves, Fred and Thomas, who pick up Jess and Caroline to have everything they need, fast car and beautiful girls, so Fred states.

While the production value for “Accident” is top notch and ultra-glossy, that’s roughly the sole positive aspect of the film. The script by Dan Tondowski is a wild hose of loose-to-absent plots and subplots chased with misplaced dramatics and cringe worthy dialogue, the latter already stated earlier with the “cheeseburger and Ryan Gosling” line in the context of being the very one thing a person would want on the brink of death. The overall script as a whole is terribly superficial without much substance to care why these four joyriders should be saved from the pain that’s barreling their way and the answer to that is there is no recourse for any of the characters; no one single redeeming value is actioned or given in exposition to rejuvenate them to a higher standing. Jess is wish-washy with her life choices and a patsy to Caroline, Caroline deceives her mother and neglects her friendship with Jess, Fred wishes everyone dead to save his own butt, and Fred is a potential rapist with pivoting change of heart. Neither of them have self-respect and so when they’re thrown violently into a mix of blood and bullets, an agonizing amount of wait time goes by until their ultimate demise. The plot dissolves around the importance of the car and it’s connection to the great threat that descends upon the four naïve adolescents. At one point in post-crash, the carjackers find a suitcase thrown from the vehicle and they dig through it to only find clothing. The scene is awkwardly out of place and fizzled after the initial “AH-HA” interest that might have shed some light on what the hell was going on.

Exclusively on digital come April 3rd, Well Go USA is releasing Dan Tondowski’s action-thriller “Accident.” The feature-film will be not rated and have a runtime of 89 minutes. The image and audio quality will not be critique for this review due to the digital platform that varies in qualities and no bonus features were included with the digital screener. In closing, “Accident” crashed and burned after the nice 7-minute single take that dapples of nice imagery from then on out and figures to quickly run through the digital market, but with the Tondowski’s cinematography, I expect the filmmaker to only get better from here.