With only five to six major films left to catch for this calendar year, I can unequivocally say there isn’t a scenario where “Drive” will not make my top ten list. Believe the hype, it’s that good.
In fact, Nicholas Winding Refn’s latest is pretty damn close to a modern classic. It’s a stylish thriller that depicts contemporary Los Angeles in a light that hasn’t been seen since “To Live or Die in LA” or, possibly, “Heat.” The film features a stellar cast including leading, but quiet man Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston (possibly battling Sam Jackson for the title of “hardest working man in show business”), a scene stealing Ron Perlman and an absolutely fantastic Albert Brooks.
The “Defending Your Life” director and star plays Bernie Rose, an LA businessman whose under the radar ventures tend to run in the illegal variety. It’s an unconventional role for Brooks — one of the reasons he fought for it — but only at first glance. After watching “Drive” it’s hard to see anyone else playing the role. Actors known for their comedic chips playing bad is nothing new, but Brooks gives Rose a somewhat humble and relaxed demeanor at first glance. When things don’t go his way? Well, it’s a striking change. So, it was with great excitement that I sat down with Brooks in Toronto to discuss his potentially Oscar-winning turn.*
*And let’s be clear. If he isn’t nominated its one criminal act Rose wouldn’t put up with.
Brooks, who is currently filming Judd Apatow’s “This is Forty,” made a lot of revelations about his work on “Drive.” 1. Just like his co-star Mulligan, he fought for the role having to convince Refn he was the right guy. 2. Unlike Gosling and Mulligan who convinced Refn to remove much of the dialogue between their characters, Brooks’ Bernie was the opposite. Brooks worked with Refn to actually add more lines to break through the “quiet” of the rest of the movie. 3. Brooks doesn’t see Rose as inherently evil, just a guy trying to keep his small little pocket of the universe going. And when the driver (Gosling) disrupts it? Well, Rose is forced to take action he’d prefer not to.
You can watch the entire interview with Brooks embedded in this post. Look for a chat with Cranston in the next day or two. And, moreover, don’t miss “Drive” when it opens nationwide tomorrow.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.