What do you do? I drive.
Drive is what happens when Lost in Translation and Oldboy have a baby.
It’s a neon-lit neo-noir set in a fantasy version of a real city. It is a story about the unconsummated cold romance between a man and a woman with an absentee husband that transitions into a story of fantastic, hammering revenge with violence visceral enough to make its audience squeamish. Maybe it’s magical hyperrealism.
I made it to New York City less than a month before Lost in Translation did, and by the time it came out on DVD it had become my go-to for everything, background for my own writing, for cleaning house, for going to sleep.
Oldboy came a few years later, part of the wave of Korean and Chinese cinema of which I am so fond. It is brutally violent, and there’s a kidnapping, and also a hammer. It’s hard to describe much more than that.
And from them… Drive. The crime film genre has a history of being contemplative, with film noir in particular being friendly to that style of storytelling. The first half of Drive takes this to a spectacular extreme, barely showing anything criminal beyond its tense opening. It is, for all intents and purposes, a relationship drama paralleling Lost in Translation, with the outsider-unfriendly megalopolis of Tokyo replaced by a 1980s fever dream of modern Los Angeles, where even a low-rent apartment building is glamourous and devastating violence is beautiful.
When the movie transitions into that violence, its easiest analog transforms as well. There are no kidnappings as such, but there is a hammer, and there is also no sugarcoating of that carnage. It makes some people uncomfortable, but it fits the movie perfectly.
Drive is everything I want from a movie. It is stylish, clever, well-acted, and well-made. It has ascended into my personal pantheon, not an easy thing to do.
Perhaps the most impressive thing is that it’s now the movie I watch as I go to sleep. Even if the car chase on which the movie pivots wakes me up every time.