Drive / Red State

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsTwo grisly action-ish films this weekend, both quite different from each other.


“There are no good sharks?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: quiet guy gets involved in a crime to help out a friend and it all goes pear shaped

See it if you like: shocking, grisly violence with a dash of pathos

If you’ve seen Shoot ‘Em Up, this isn’t a million miles away as far as the basic plot goes. However, the out and out bullet-fest of Clive Owen‘s effort is instead drawn out and played in a much quieter – though no less lethal style – by Ryan Gosling.

The plot is fairly simple. Gosling plays a part-time stunt driver, part-time mechanic (and part-time getaway driver) who says very little. He gets to know his pretty next door neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and offers to help her husband out when he’s released from prison with a ton of “we stopped you getting knifed inside” debt. Unfortunately, the job goes belly-up and our lead is left trying to figure out what went wrong and why.

Cue bad guys hunting him down, and a sudden surge of protectiveness welling from our quiet yet violent hero.

The pace of the film may be too slow for some – certainly this was Gillian’s main complaint and I can see what she means. However, I personally thought it was well done. There are periods where little happens, but it’s a reflection of the character himself. He’s not impetuous. He’s careful, patient and plans well. Even the opening sequence is a mixture of short adrenaline bursts and stomach-clenching tension during long moments where nothing happens. It’s a bit of a gamble by director Nicolas Winding Refn, but it pays off.

As the film goes on, Gosling’s character reveals more of the bastard he really is – both verbally and in his actions. From virtually mute, his spoken scenes get longer but almost always when he’s threatening someone. And when those threats are followed through… yow.

The splatter scenes aren’t for the faint of heart. One scene was – according to the director – cut quite drastically as it was too much for the MPAA. What remains is predominantly off-camera, but still grisly. The guy sat next to me was a giggle. Every time something violent occurred 0n-screen, he sat with his hand clamped over his mouth and his eyes bugging out! I hate to think what he’d be like in a screening of a Final Destination movie.

A bit slow going, as I said, but worth the effort. Nothing hugely original, but very well acted and filmed.

Red State

“Simple just shit itself”

Plot-in-a-nutshell – a mad-as-a-box-of-badgers religious sect kidnaps three teenagers. Coincidentally, the ATF turn up at their doorstep to check on a few alleged firearms irregularities. Comedy does not ensue.

See it if you like – seeing an established director take a fresh direction

Funnily enough, I’m enjoying this film more on reflection than I did at the time. Part of this is down to the fact that I’ve just found out that the special effects budget was only $5000 and the entire thing was shot in 25 days, in order and with a cast partly including family members of the crew to keep the costs down.

If you’re expecting a gross-out comedy along the lines of Chasing Amy or a film full of Clerks-esque monologues then you’ll be disappointed. The longest monologue in the film goes to Michael Parks who plays Abin Cooper, insane leader of a small cult which may or may not be based on the real-life Westboro Baptist Church ( sadder, more pathetic bunch of fuck-rags you’ll be hard pressed to find in the western world). Sadly, this monologue is just a load of Christian claptrap and drags on far too long. Yes, we gathered he’s a nut-job. Yes, we know he’s using the Bible to justify his hatred of gays. We don’t need ten minutes of bonkers preacher man to prove it.

Other than that one segment, the film moves along at quite a pace. However, at times it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be. Or what is it. Or where it was when they finished filming the day before. A case in point is just after the introduction of John Goodman‘s ATF agent. The screen goes black with a caption: “4:27am”. Yes, fine, but why tell us the time at that point in the film at at absolutely no other? Unless it’s one of the ten “Easter eggs” that director Kevin Smith says are hidden in the film.

Given the amateur status of so many of the cast, their performances are pretty damn good and the story is an interesting one – disjointed though it may be. There are some laughs, mainly of the darker variety, and don’t get too attached to any of the characters…

The ending is also rather sudden and does smack of “we’re running out of cash… how can we wrap this up?” syndrome.

At the time, we both came out of the cinema thinking “Well… that was OK”. Looking back, though, there are some good moments and it’s worth considering.

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