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Drive: Gorgeous and Brutal Thriller
Drive is ultimately about a man who’s run afoul of the local mob through no direct responsibility of his own. Fearful for the safety of the people he loves, he’s spurred into action.
Despite being the lead, Gosling’s character doesn’t even get a name, which actually is highly fitting for his character. His unnamed character is a zombie, only alive in theory. A wizard with cars, he works part-time as a Hollywood stunt driver and occasionally moonlights as a getaway car wingman. He drives around with a blank, expressionless face, not even caring that he’s being completely exploited by those around him.
When he meets his new neighbour Irene (Mulligan) and her son, Benicio, the first spark of life appears in his eyes. The only time he shows any feeling throughout the film is when he interacts with Benicio or Irene, to whom he’s obviously taken a liking.
When Irene’s criminal husband, Standard (Isaac) is released from prison, Gosling’s character’s only emotional stimulant is threatened. Standard owes a local mobster a couple of thousand dollars that he has no way of paying it back. Practically owned by the mobster, Standard is pressured robbing a pawn shop. When he refuses, he’s seriously roughed up and finds himself in the unenviable position of having his wife and kid next on the hit list.
To save Benicio and Irene, he offers to help Standard with robbing the pawn shop. Unluckily for everybody, the robbery goes awry and the film turns into a survival of the fittest theme, where the length of time you stay alive is directly proportional to your kill count.
Drive is slow, tense and brutal. The actors convey more with their eyes than with their very limited lines, which echoes Gosling’s character’s zombified state. Gosling is fantastic as the dead-eyed lead and honestly, he’s never been more terrifying. His is the kind of character that yearns for happiness, yet he stamps in people’s heads with no second thoughts. It’s not that he’s a violent character; he’s just the embodiment of numbness.
Mulligan’s Irene, on the other hand, is full of emotion and she manages to bring a semblance of life to his eyes. She’s caught between her criminal husband and Gosling’s character, who was there for her and her son when Standard was in prison. She’s desperate, lonely and lost while trying to remain the one stable presence in her son’s life.
Visually, Drive is so stunning it would still be entertaining if you watched it on mute. Except that would be a real shame considering how epic the 80s-style, synth-heavy soundtrack is. In addition to the perfect use of slow motion and moody lighting, the lead character’s bomber jacket is also worth a mention. It’s silver with a big golden scorpion splashed across the back, and gets bloodier and bloodier as the film goes on. It, like the rest of the film, is supremely stylish.
In short, Drive is simultaneously gorgeous, tense, unsettling, violent and romantic. It’s a cult classic in the making.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.