Films: Ultra Violence in Drive

Drive, Rated 18

Possible SPOILER ALERT

Oh, this film is for those people.

That’s what hits you when ultra violence appears in Drive.

Those are the people:

  • For whom a semi-trailer turning into a giant robot made Transformers their film of the year.
  • Who cannot get enough of saying how ‘awesome’ that syringe bit from that Saw film was.
  • Who see a face caving in under a shoe as a defining moment in a film’s existence, and that before all that blood it looked like it was going to be boring.

As the blood spatters, this is the stain left by the recollection of decades worth of films aimed at delivering sick thrills. But this wasn’t a film to instantly gratify and be discarded. There was something at work here, and it felt like people have returned to making films with an overriding value.

Just as Kubrick employed ultra violence in Clockwork Orange, so Nicolas Winding Refn uses such brutality to define Drive’s protagonist. The unnamed driver comes to reveal his hidden character traits – just like all of us, there is a side to his character he wants to keep hidden, or at least expose selectively.

Which is what makes this violence more than a cheap thrill. It gets the reaction all disturbing imagery will, but it is focused and crafted. The film is arranged like a symphony; it is dynamic, starting slowly and building to a crescendo. It lulls us along, gets us to invest in Ryan Gosling’s character, in relationships, in aspirations and social struggles.

Then comes the reveal.

The blood in itself tells a part of the story, but not more so than Gosling’s reactions to his own behaviour. Suddenly, character is complete – moving from mysterious stranger into much darker and irretrievably flawed territory. The transformation in depth is made more stunning by the meagre dialogue Gosling works with. With repeated exposure, violence goes on to redefine struggle, a sense of hopelessness and love all within the film’s final third.

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