This time around, Joe McCulloch delivers his take on Drive, direct to your heart (as the Gosling intended it), while Tucker goes through a bunch of movies with violence in them, as well as Guarding Tess and some movie about a picnic.
I liked Dead Man’s Bones, it was a cool album, 2011
In case you’re wondering why this is drenched in the internet’s cum, the answer’s pretty simple. Despite its director’s public toasts to Alejandro Jodorowsky and Gaspar Noé, Drive is fundamentally the same kind of thing as the Crank series: a smart/dumb winking-but-just-because-I’m-enjoying-myself-so-much rendering of goofball movie thrills deep through the horizon of absurdity as a bath of sheer visual aesthetic, rippled and splashed through by a wildly and simply dedicated protagonist.
Mind you, instead of hyperkinetic racing racing racing it’s a mostly rich-lit thing of Mannish mise-en-scène, yet not above arching the authorial eyebrow as criminal chauffer Ryan Gosling -- who apparently insisted on the involvement of director Nicolas Winding Refn in what was at one point supposed to be a more straightforward heist-gone-bad picture -- passes through a garage full of flashy muscle cars to arrive at the nondescript consumer vehicle in which he’ll be pulling off his next big crime scene escape-for-hire, potentially rousing film critics of a certain inclination to stand on the seats screaming YES! YES! FUCK YOU MICHAEL BAY! GOOD GUYS WIN! GOOD GUYS WIN! Breathlessly, Refn withholds the speed release of Gosling’s adventure by portraying the getaway as a game of hiding your car in shadows until a dozen or so final seconds of furious velocity accompanied (knowingly, I’m sure) by the shittiest, hackiest trope imaginable: the Big Game on the radio appearing to comment on the protagonist’s on-screen action. THEN - pink neon credits! The most on-the-nose song-selections-as-commentary this side of Zack Snyder! Ryan Gosling dressed as a cop, but he’s really on a movie set where nary an eyes is blinked in the face of dangerous stunts before slipping on a latex tough guy mask because who is he, really? EH? EH??
I liked Crank and Crank 2, though. I liked Drive too. Hell, despite how my review sounded, I also liked Joe Wright’s Hanna, which, alternatively, married intensively stylized action to a defiant intellectualization of every fucking thing in sight. Refn, meanwhile, is content to play at games of performance and illusion -- Gosling is a stuntman pretending to be a movie tough guy by living as a tough guy until the burden of toughness demands he wear a literal tough guy mask in audition for perhaps the ultimate cool stoicism of death… and the villain is a producer! -- which I found to be largely banal and overwrought. He’s far better at presenting Ron Pearlman and Albert Brooks(!) as ludicrously clichéd mob types, the former gesticulating wildly underneath an awesome spray tan while the latter, in response to Gosling’s refusal to shake because ’my hands are dirty,’ suckles the inevitable ’so are mine’ like a honeyed lozenge. Better still is the (again shopworn) idea of time and sound slowing as Our Man readies himself for action (I mean, there‘s a fucking Saving Private Ryan hearing blowout bit! Seriously!), which Refn takes to the frankly wonderful extent of Gosling stepping into a veritable pocket dimension, lights shifting and everything, to exchange a long, erotic kiss with Carey Mulligan As the Good Girl in the millisecond before moving in to crush an assassin’s head like a plastic cup, Toxic Avenger-style.
Yet if there’s anything that remains constant between these bursts of ecstasy, it’s gotta be Gosling; heaven knows if Drive starts up a trend, its already got its Nicolas Cage. This is the kind of performance that dares to appear completely ridiculous for a good portion of screen time in the service of a persona sewn together from so many classic toothpick-chewing gestures the Driver comes off like an uncanny living seinen manga tough guy with all the stiffness of the page somehow intact in three dimensions. But by the time heads are erupting from gunfire and pierced necks are gushing blood in the bathroom, Gosling is sweating and trembling, like he never really expected to be this guy he’s been playing for everyone, most of all himself. Again, it’s not so fascinating an arc, but its actualization is something to enjoy moment by moment, which describes the film neatly.
Rise Of The Planet of The Apes
Who Let The Dogs Out, 2011
This was pretty exhilirating, and surely the best of this summer's dire crop of popcorn blockbusters. There's a lot that could have been improved--that's one of the most tacked-on female characters in recent memory, practically could have been added in post--but considering the film is, essentially, the action thriller equivalent of Roger Rabbit or Space Jam, it's hard to come down anywhere but "yeah, sure" on this one. It takes balls to set that much action in the daylight, y'know?
The Man From Nowhere
He's not gay incase anyone is wondering, 2010
This is broadly similar to Taken in terms of plot structure, but it's more just any movie ever about a guy who wants to look inward (because of a tragic loss) being forced to act outward (because of an innocent victim of evil). On the other hand, it's also movie about a guy with a really horrible haircut and no personality who is pretty good at beating people up, and then he cuts his hair and becomes a really beautiful physical specimen who is insanely good at killing people. Some really great violence in this one.
Total Massacre, 2010
Diabolical film. The sequence where the camera is turned on its side nearly knocked me off the couch. There's a lot else to love here, although much has been pointed out that might be a sticking point from a certain intellectual level. Honestly though, it would take me multiple years of rewatching to get to a point where those final battles no longer carried a visceral impact. I envy the teenagers who are currently soaking their brains in this thing's brine.
This Metal Folding Chair Will Show Me Your Head Secrets, 2008
Although the hammer/chisel scene that occurs early on nearly had me bailing for less gross-out pastures, I stuck it out, am glad I did. Perfectly aping the dead-run style set up by After Hours or Booty Call (and maybe a dash of 24), The Chaser is the sort of movie that would've been singled out as a "non-stop thrill ride" if that phrase hadn't been attached to basically every non-comedy ever made. It's of the mean fucker variety though, an action thriller that takes some aggressive detours into hard R slasher. Oh, and it also made a massive amount of money, and everybody involved in this movie apparently became a superstar afterwards.
Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, 1994
Not sure if it's accurate to time it out perfectly, but I think I actually sank into a deep, deep depression right around when I decided it would be a good idea to watch this entire movie from start to finish. It's kind of fascinating to watch pre-crazy Nicholas Cage, because his performances aren't markedly different in any substantial way, and yet there's just a general sense nowadays that yeah, he's gone pretty far out on the beam. I genuinely love that scene where Cage shoots Austin Pendleton though, that hasn't changed a bit. Otherwise, I've got nothing to say here. We make our own hell, sometimes.
Lethal Fucking Weapon, 1987
God, wouldn't you like to read that Chris Ryan book right now? Right/right/right now? Anyway: the only thing I noticed for the first time on this rewatch of the fifth greatest movie involving Shane Black ever made was that Mel Gibson doesn't seem to have a grasp on how to play Riggs until the second or third scene, to the point where it even sounds like he's speaking in his native accent. Then it clicks into place, he does that out of breath laugh thing and, bang, it's countdown to the scene where he kills somebody who torturers him. Watching Mel Gibson kill people who torture him is a time-honored American tradition, one he almost ruined along with all the other traditions he did ruin when he went batshit crazy (in an unfunny way) for the second time. This one still works!
The Bermuda Depths
Bad Movie Club #1, 1978
Oh, this is a stone motherfucking classic, right here. A sleazy cash-in on Jaws stapled to a story about an immortal ghost (married to a gigantic killer turtle) who falls in love with a paranoid schizophrenic orphan (orphaned by the evil, omnipotent spirit that animates the turtle and immortalized the ghost) under the watchful eye of Burl Ives and a drunk Carl Weathers (!), this is one of those movies that actually incorporates a scene shot in a bathtub, with a toy boat, and pretends that it's a boat on the open water. Oh, and you know how you've never seen a movie where a gigantic turtle jumps into the sky and knocks down a helicopter, thereby killing the people onboard said helicopter? That's a loss you can remedy. Wow.
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
Dude Still Makes Movies, Dude Still Kicks Ass, 1978
This is one of those movies whose cultural impact and overall wonderfulness overshadows a lot of its minor failings, the most egregious being that its way more interesting to watch the main character go through 35 chambers of Shaolin training than it is to watch him do anything with said training, and since the end of the movie is (necessarily) going to be him doing stuff just like that, the movie ends on a down note. (Except for the graveyard scene, which plays out like a black box theater production of Faces of Death style snuff/shlock, and pretty much redeems everything around it.)
The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
Walter Matthau Threw That Piece Of Shit Like A Piece of Shit, 1974
Some movies you remember watching for the first time, some movies are just woven into the fabric of one's existence. Hail, hail. Prequels are stupid fucking concepts, the province of lazy audiences and lazy entertainment merchants: but man, I'd watch a movie about whatever mercenary work it was that Robert Shaw's character was doing up until he decided to bring hell back to the underground. That's an untapped vein of gold right there.
Wages of Fear
How's That Leg Feeling, Slippery Sam, 1953
Is there any working filmmaker who scares people as much as Clouzot did back in the 50's? The only one I can think of is Lars Von Trier, but he really just offends people, he doesn't scare them. Does any artist scare people the way Clouzot did? It might be a question of audience--Clouzot made supremely skillful thrillers, and "artistic" directors seem to have completely abandoned genre entirely, with the only exception being non-American filmmakers who still get stuck in arthouses when they leave their own countries and end up subtitled.
Whatever, it's not like this train of thought is giving me any pleasure. Wages of Fear: this really is a perfect movie.
People On Sunday
From Your Hips To Your Finger Tips, 1929
Part of the reason people get so amped up about the past has gotta be that you could be one sexy motherfucker based purely off of attitude, as that's what all silent movies from the 20's constantly imply. (Unless you were a woman, of course.) Almost all of these flicks have dudes in them that are considered the Ryan Gosling/Jude Laws of their day, and yet those dudes appear indistinguishable from the specimen of man you oft find lurking around the 2AM hour at your local Waffle House (or local Waffle House equivalent). That whole "go to the gym"/"eat some boiled chicken" thing is totally a new creation. Movie star dudes used to be skanky.
Anyways: this movie is about a picnic. The dude who sets it up ends up banging it out with one of the girls while her pal gets all jealous and breaks a record. Trees are climbed, paddleboats are paddled. Solid as steel? You know it.
-Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone, 2011