The Cynical Optimist : Hoods and Hoons


Adapted from James Sallis’s 2005 novel, “Drive” is not for the faint of heart. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s film is a violent and surreal tone poem influenced by Steve McQueen’s “Bulitt” and the work of Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. It is a powerful, unrelenting work of intensity.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling), who remains unnamed throughout the film, works at a garage, picks up occasional stunt driving work, and moonlights as a getaway driver. Gosling’s character is someone who has a purpose, excels at something and makes no apologies for it.

The Driver becomes involved with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Driver and Irene appear to be slowly developing a romantic connection when her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), comes home from prison. He is then involved in a heist that goes horribly wrong that puts Irene and Benicio in danger, sending the Driver on a one-man mission to stop their pursuers.

The Driver is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s character from Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy.” He is a man of few words and probably says less than 20 lines in the whole film, further exemplifying his isolation.

Gosling’s performance is nothing short of brilliant – whether he’s driving at breakneck speed or simply sitting at a dinner table with Carey Mulligan, he is never less than riveting.

“Drive” is an exhilarating piece of cinema that will startle mainstream audiences at multiplexes – moments of shocking violence and brutality were met with nervous laughter as people simply couldn’t accept what they were watching.

We’re all desensitized to violence because we’ve come to expect it, but the moments in “Drive” are always unexpected. This is a film that mainstream audiences don’t deserve to see, honestly.

It’s becoming more and more apparent most moviegoers don’t know how to conduct themselves when watching a real piece of cinema — they’ve been spoon-fed the same tripe time and time again that they’ve become ADD in their need for constant stimulation and instant gratification.

This is not “Fast and the Furious” or “Gone in 60 Seconds” — it isn’t meant to be a summer thrill-ride. Rather it is a poetic, entrancing experience that refuses to give in to cliches and mainstream impulses.

While the film is getting a wide release, I would recommend finding a small, out of the way theater and going to enjoy this film in the middle of the day, away from the idiots who spend their two hours in the dark chomping on popcorn and slurping away at 64 oz. sodas.

A brilliant film with impeccable direction and pacing, a fantastic ensemble of actors and an amazing soundtrack, “Drive” is easily one of my favorite films of the year and stands as a breakout performance for Ryan Gosling, who is no doubt Hollywood’s new leading man.

Writer and director Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block” is a blood-splattered mishmash of “Kick-Ass” with equal parts of “Critters” and “Monster Squad” stirred in — and a dash of “Alien” for good measure.

From the producers of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” “Attack the Block” follows a gang of tough inner-city teenagers who try to defend their turf against an invasion of savage alien creatures, turning a South London apartment complex into an extraterrestrial war zone.

While returning home, nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged by a gang of teenagers: Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones), Biggz (Simon Howard) and leader Moses (John Boyega). The attack is interrupted when an object falls from the sky into a nearby car — the beginnings of a full-on alien invasion.

The gang and their would-be victim must now fight for their lives as hordes of nasty killing machines invade the slums of South London. First and foremost, the creature design in this film is phenomenal, presenting the beasties as blacker-than-black silhouettes with fluorescent fangs – a throwback to H.R. Giger’s designs from “Alien.”

If you were to ask Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) what makes a monster, he would tell you it’s all about the biology of the best — the design has to be functional — and the creatures in “Attack the Block” are both attractive and unnerving in their simplicity.

The gang is forced to fight these beasts with only the items made available to your average teenage hoodlum — fireworks, katana swords, super-soakers filled with gasoline — riding their bikes and scooters through the deserted streets of South London, cutting down creatures with bloody satisfaction.

In a year that has seen both charming (“Super 8”) alien films and atrocious ones (“Battle: Los Angeles”), “Attack the Block” is certainly the most vicious. It’s an instant cult classic — destined for Midnight screenings and double-features with films like “Shaun of the Dead,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and James Gunn’s “Super.”

Bottom Line: “Attack the Block” is an energetic science-fiction film with plenty of wit and style to go around – a throwback to the ’80s cult classics like “Critters” and “Gremlins” with a bit of the old ultra-violence for good measure. The ensemble is brilliant with Nick Frost and newcomer John Boyega stealing the show — not to mention the kick-ass soundtrack which mashes up Basement Jaxx and orchestrated film scores.