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dir Nicolas Winding Refn
scr Hossein Amini
prd Michel Litvak, John Palermo, Marc Platt, Gigi Pritzker, Adam Siegel
with Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Kaden Leos, Jeff Wolfe, James Biberi, Russ Tamblyn, Joey Bucaro
release US 16.Sep.11,
Good Samaritan: Gosling and Mulligan
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Based on the James Sallis novel, this lean, stylish thriller is confidently assembled to pull us into an outrageous series of events. And it's no surprise that Refn won best director at Cannes for his fine work here.
A young Hollywood stunt driver (Gosling) moonlights as a getaway driver, overseen by his mentor Shannon (Cranston), who has just negotiated a partnership with businessman Bernie (Brooks) and his shady partner Nino (Perlman). But the driver's isolated life is breached when he gets to know single mother Irene (Mulligan) and her young son (Leos) who live in his building. And when Irene's husband (Isaac) is released from prison, the driver offers to help clear an old score so he can start with a fresh slate. Of course, nothing goes as planned.
The film is shot in an achingly cool style that's lush and lurid. The dialog is sparse, the takes are long and slow, and the details sometimes flicker around the edges. But each scene is fraught with tension due to suggestive editing, a pulsing score and low-key performances. Watching the film is almost dreamlike, as Refn sweeps us along the road, hypnotising us with L.A.'s night-time lights and the purring of each car's engine. And as the plot writhes with action, emotions actually become stronger.
The acting is almost invisible; Refn's key direction seems to have been, "Show nothing on your face. OK, now a tiny smirk." This gives the film's inter-relationships an enjoyably slow-burning intensity. We only get brief glimpses of the back-stories, but the connections between the characters are startlingly vivid. And the growing link between Gosling and Mulligan is both sweet and a bit unnerving, mainly because that's how it feels to the characters themselves.
Along the way, each person surprises us, usually in quietly suggestive scenes that are so intimate that the shift into intensely grisly violence is that much more upsetting. Refn expertly manages the film's tone, even when the plot seems to get trapped in its own machinations. It's amazing how deeply we feel everything that happens, even though there isn't much that we can actually identify with. But we'd love to be this cool.
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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