I’ve begun my yearlong challenge a little early… I have two films I wanted to ensure made the list–one is very forgettable and the other is haunting.
Dredd- As I watched the awful Dredd, a lyric from the band Blues Traveller’s song “Run-Around” popped into my head, “…a bad play where they heroes right/and nobody thinks or expects too much.” This is a re-boot of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone action film Judge Dredd which was based on a popular series of comic books. Few re-boots seem to work, and this one just crashes and burns. Karl Urban is the mono-syllabic Stallone stand-in Judge Dredd. This film is a simple shoot-em-up and doesn’t rise above that premise. The body count is high and the use of slow-motion at times to show the brutal efficiency of the judges is wrenching. The visuals are fair, the plot is filled with as many holes as the trail of dead Dredd leaves behind, and the outcome is never in doubt. Don’t pay to see this one.
Drive- There are two startling things about this film. First, the individual shots are lengthy (if only by comparison to contemporary films) and this gives the film a throwback feel. It is like something from a bygone era. Second, the lack of dialogue spoken by the unnamed main character played ably by Ryan Gosling.
As I watched the film it reminded me of the classic western Shane. In Shane a quiet drifter with a dark past(an ex-gunfighter) comes to town and helps out a woman and her son. There is some latent sexual tension, but the hero, Shane, does not act on it out of respect for the husband. Shane solves the central problem of the story and although wounded(perhaps mortally) he rides off into the sunset. Substitute “Driver,” as Gosling’s character is called in the credits, and you’ll have a synopsis of the plot… with modern-day Los Angeles in place of the frontier.
The violence of Drive is brutal and will be perhaps off-putting to some audiences, but it serves a purpose. Where in Dredd the violence is the payoff, the entertainment itself, here the violence is shocking and adds depth to the Driver’s character. He is willing to cross the line of human decency–perhaps falling back into old ways–and commit the most brutal acts of violence in the cause of protecting the woman and her son. This film is dark, brutal, violent and gory… but with a purpose and with a soul. Move this to the top of your Netflix queue right now. It’s that good.
The trailer makes it look like Drive is an action movie… it’s not.
Here’s a brief commentary from the director about the opening scene thanks to The New York Times: Anatomy of a Scene: Drive.