Tag Archives: Ryan Gosling

Drive (2011) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

DRIVE

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers: Hossein Amini (screenplay), James Sallis (book)
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston

In hindsight Drive was probably the film that acted as the spark for Mr. Gosling’s transformation from heartthrob, rom-com regular into the more varied and refined actor he is today. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, the man also responsible for one of my favourite Tom Hardy films, Bronson, produced a cracker with this one too.

Ryan Gosling’s character isn’t given a name, channeling his best inner Clint Eastwood, he’s merely referred to as ‘Driver’ throughout. But rest assured, this is very much his film and the story closely follows this initially quiet and unassuming gentleman. He works as a Hollywood stunt driver by day and moonlights as a mob getaway driver at night. His steely, ice cold persona and incredible driving skills enabling him to excel at both professions. A perfect car flip, completed in one take, highlighting this perfectly.

He has a bit of a strange request that he demands of the crooks in exchange for his service. He only drives for five minutes and then no matter where they are, he parks up and leaves. This is perhaps perfectly encapsulated in the films striking opener when he swings into a car park nearby a baseball ground and casually bails out. It was an interesting, rather illogical and slightly strange, concept to implement into a getaway driver’s character and one of only two small gripes I had with the film.

Shortly after meeting him, things begin to improve in his personal and professional life. He slowly develops a relationship with his next door neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young kid Benicio. Shannon (Bryan Cranston), his friend and the man responsible for engineering much of his work on both fronts, lines up a legitimate business venture for him as a racing driver with two Italian mobster contacts, Bernie (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman) sponsoring it. This provides Driver with the opportunity to leave his criminal life behind and look to a brighter future.

It’s heavily hinted that their relationship is purely platonic, mostly thanks to the gentlemanly, chivalrous, unspoken manner assumed by Driver every time they’re together. This is perhaps for the best because her troubled, convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison and upsets the cosy equilibrium built between Benicio, his mother and their new friend. This moment is absolutely pivotal. It represents the turning point for Driver and the film itself.

Standard finds himself being blackmailed for protection money, an issue that soon threatens to endanger his young family. When Driver gets wind of this, he agrees to help out, returning to his familiar role as getaway driver one final time. Things don’t go quite as anticipated however. Standard is brutally killed in the aftermath and both Blanche (Christina Hendricks), an associate that tags along for the robbery and Driver are left at the mercy of the two previously mentioned mobsters. Well, Nino initially, but Bernie is soon drawn in too to clean up the mess.

Drive descends into hyper-violent madness after this and it’s this part of the film I got the most enjoyment from. It went a little John Wick at times with shotgun shots to the head, impalings, a brutal kicking in an elevator and a shocking wrist slice moment accompanied with strange words of comfort. Then there’s a highly memorable scene played out to the perfectly fitting Riz Ortolani’s ‘Oh My Love’. The score in this film is fantastic incidentally, that particular scene was the icing on the cake in that regard though the final scene is a close second.

The violence seems a little out of context and not at all in the nature of the Driver we seen in the first half, but then again, there was a subtle hint at this psycho undertone in his psyche during a brief bar altercation with a previous associate.

Gosling is fantastic in this film. He plays the role perfectly, his facial expressions are a little jarring at times, making him seem almost devoid of emotion, but I enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of madness he went through. Albert Brooks was incredible as Bernie. The calm indifference to the brutal violence he dished out was a tad unnerving. Though I’ll admit to laughing at that violent moment involving a fork. I’m not sure if that was the intended reaction or whether I’m just sick in the head. Cranston was decent as was Perlman. The whole cast were solid in reality. Hendrick’s cameo was outstanding, especially the look of foretelling terror she had in the motel room.

In the end, Drive was an incredibly enjoyable watch, particularly the taut, violent trail of vengeance that embodied the films second half. I’m not entirely sure when the film was set, but it had an 80s vibe that was only accentuated by the score, visuals and even that distinct scorpion bomber that only Gosling could pull off. It’s billed as a crime/drama film, but the violent, lone wolf, showdown with Bernie was like a homage to an Eastwood classic and made it feel more like a neo-western. It wasn’t cinematic perfection, not many movies are. For instance, the motivation behind Driver’s actions weren’t the most logical, but I wasn’t too perturbed by that.

I’d highly recommend giving this a watch if you haven’t yet seen it.

Rating: 4/5

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The Big Short (2015) Movie Review by John Walsh

BIG SHORT

Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Charles Randolph (screenplay), Adam McKay (screenplay)
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling

Known mostly for his comedy work alongside good friend Will Ferrell on both the Anchorman duo-logy and Step Brothers; Adam McKay opts to go with a slightly more serious brand of comedy in The Big Short. Boasting a stellar cast and based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, the film attempts to cast light on the 2008 financial crash, seen from the insider perspective and successfully utilising a more grown up, darker humour to bolster what is a pretty compelling story.

It follows the trials and tribulations of three separate ‘groups’ for want of a better word as they all become aware of the impending financial crisis of 2008 and attempt to ‘short’ a housing market teeming with unsustainable, sub-prime mortgages by gambling huge sums of money on its collapse. This of course draws ridicule from the unbearably smarmy banks and the litany of plebs working within, who at this point think themselves untouchable, and blinded by arrogance, blissfully unaware of the danger on the horizon. The same can’t be said for Doctor Michael Burry (Christian Bale); a brilliant analytical thinker and hedge fund manager, he spots the patterns emerging and predicts the crash way ahead of anyone else within the industry. It’s really his character, something of an introvert and rather socially awkward, who bears the brunt of the ridicule at the beginning, as he effectively gambles $1.3bn by convincing (there wasn’t much needed) pretty much every financial institution to let him set-up investments on bad loans going, well… bad.

Hot on his heels and alerted by the bemused gossiping spreading around town of Burry’s sudden investing is Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling); a sly, egotistical, salesman at Deutsche Bank, the ultimate profiteer and the narrator throughout. Seeing the potential of massive profits on the horizon, he immediately sets about encouraging Mark Baum (Steve Carroll); something of a rentagob and a disenfranchised worker at Morgan Stanley, still reeling from his brothers recent suicide into purchasing credit default swaps from his bank. Baum harbours a growing resentment towards Wall Street and despite being suspicious of Vennett’s motives, he agrees to look into the viability of the venture, setting out with his team of underlings to investigate the growing bubble of sub-prime mortgages. This reasonably short sequence begins with them encountering a pair of cocksure, perma-tanned, mortgage brokers that draw the chagrin of the increasingly aghast Baum and ends with the latter, looking decidedly uncomfortable, as he grills an exotic dancer at a strip club. This eye opening conversation, where the woman openly admits to owning five separate houses that she can’t possibly afford, convinces him to get on board with Vennett.

McKay then introduces the third and final group of money chasing desperadoes, the two college friends, Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock); entering the story in the lobby of an unnamed bank as they get a rather gentle and quite humorous rejection from an amused employee, whilst trying to arrange an ISDA, but failing to meet the requirements by the meagre sum of $1bn and spare change. The Brownfield fund they started is very much small time and they’re left cursing their luck until they discover the existence of the potential ‘bubble’ by picking up Vennett’s discarded dossier on the table before one of them turns to the camera, as the film quite often does, and explains that this didn’t actually happen in real life. With the two of them now on the scent like a randy, Blood Hound, they require the assistance of an old acquaintance to help get them a seat at the ‘big-boy’ table. Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) is that man. Highly suspicious of his incoming calls being tapped, the pair initially struggle to get a hold of him, but after finally succeeding they manage to convince him to help out after he admits that the statistics they earlier sent him were concerning.

The film then juggles all three perspectives around as things begin to progress, with frustrations quickly manifesting themselves, as all of them, well technically not Burry because he got it out of his system early, begin to invest more into the shorting financial gamble, whilst in the meantime they face having to fork out on costly premiums attached to their investments, with the inevitable crash seemingly refusing to materialise. During this point the moral beacon and voice for the regular joe is very much Rickert, out of the game and with nothing to really gain himself, he berates the excitable Charlie and Jamie after they successfully trade on AA rated loans, reminding them of the human cost that a huge financial crash brings. It soon becomes evident that the entire system, built on a Jenga like ticking, time bomb of a foundation as Vennett eloquently visualises earlier, is highly fraudulent with unscrupulous deals being done to maintain AAA ratings on clear sub-prime mortgages. This has the double edged effect of infuriating the protagonists and fooling the top cat bankers into a false sense of security. Of course, with the clear benefit of hindsight, the viewer know fine well that entire thing imploded shortly afterwards, but neither the film nor the people directly benefitting from it gloat when it finally hits (except Baum who can’t resist nailing a banker who’s the complete antithesis of himself), choosing instead to focus on the innocent parties effected.

There’s some very good performances here in what is a pretty excellent ensemble cast. Christian Bale does exactly what you’d expect him to do, transforming into the almost unrecognisably awkward Michael Burry, a man that walks around bare footed, in shorts and a t-shirt, whilst locking himself in his office and listening to heavy metal. He perfectly encapsulates this with all the nervous, little quirks you’d expect in such a man. Normally known for his comedic roles, Steve Carrell delivers a smashing performance as the incongruous Mark Baum, a man riddled with guilt at his brothers untimely death and steadfastly determined to bring some moral equilibrium to a bent system. Ryan Gosling is decent too, adding some comedic flair to the film with his narration of the events and intermittent turns to the camera. Both John Magaro and Finn Wittrock put in solid portrayals too, whilst the strong supporting cast headed up by Brad Pitt, who makes a fleeting appearance, Marisa Tomei, Jeremy Strong and quite a few others really help make this what it is. The film also unusually turns to brief cameos from celebrities, most notably Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain and Selena Gomez, to explain the finer details of CDO’s and credit-default swaps. These don’t effect the pacing of the film or take you out of it in way.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Big Short and given the nature of the films subject matter, it was perhaps extremely important for McKay to get across the seriousness of it all whilst lightening the tone with comedic moments. It could’ve quite easily became a bore fest if he strayed in one direction too much, but I think he got the perfect blend between the two. I would have no problem recommending this film, if like me, you somehow managed to miss its original release.

The Nice Guys (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

THE NICE GUYS

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice

An enthralling, mismatched buddy, action comedy from Shane Black. The Nice Guys is set in the seedy, underbelly of 1977, Los Angeles and follows the bungling antics of Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and the slightly more competent Jackson ‘Jack’ Healy, as they attempt to solve the mystery of a pornstar’s death and also track down the elusive Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), a nutty activist whose disappearance may provide some answers.

And it’s the death of the pornstar, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), that strikingly opens the film. An extended, funk heavy, opening theme pans down to a house and we see a young boy sneak into his parents bedroom to steal his fathers smutty magazine. At the exact moment he’s looking in silent awe at the centrefold model, we see a car careen down the embankment from the mirror over his shoulder and crash straight through the house. The whole sequence is somehow morbidly amusing, though even now I’m not entirely sure why? Of course it’s only the same model from the centrefold that appears before the boy, her dress ripped from her in the chaos of the crash. She only has time to mutter the seemingly gibberish line, “How d’you like my car, big boy?”, before succumbing to her injuries.

We’re then introduced to our leading pair in the form of several synchronous noir scenes narrated by both. Flashing back and forth between the two to provide the audience with a brief backstory before diving into the main story. These scenes do an insightful job of getting the two very different personalities across. March is the forlorn looking, struggling private eye, who is earning his cob doing investigative work for old ladies. Jack takes a more hands on approach to his work and the beating he dishes out to March in their first meeting perfectly encapsulates this. This first meeting between the pair is not entirely indicative of the blooming bromance that’s about to unfold with the latter’ inability to stop grasping for his gun earning him a potential “left spiral fracture” and a darkly humorous ear piercing scream. The parallel focus on both characters briefly continues. March follows up the beating and warning about tracking a potential lead in the Amelia case by going to the grandmothers house to inform her that he’s ending the investigation. His interesting father and daughter relationship is then somewhat perfectly summed up by a quick little chat between the two. “Tell me the truth and don’t take it easy on me because I’m your father. Am I bad person?” He asks her with a reply of “yes” coming back within a split second. Jack at this point has already been assaulted and taken as a prisoner by Blueface (Beau Knapp); the moronic villain of the piece, who earns his name by getting covered in dye. It doesn’t last long though and he soon turns the tables on his assailant.

Jack then tracks March down to a bowling alley where his daughters birthday is being held and after a funny standoff involving a toilet cubicle, they decide to join forces to investigate the disappearance of Amelia together. Shortly afterwards the pair of them end up at a seedy, surreal party, mingling with pornstars and all manner of other craziness, joined by a gate crashing Holly (Angourie Rice), March’s barely pubescent daughter. We see the trio go about fishing for details. Becoming progressively more drunk as the night goes on and even taking a dip with a pair of mermaids at one point. March develops a penchant for falling from heights and takes a tumble off a balcony into a wooded area only to stumble across Amelia and a dead porn director. Gosling’s facial expressions and reaction to the corpse are genuinely hilarious, as is the non-plussed manner in which he tells Jack about his earlier swim. Holly, meanwhile, talks herself into trouble and a flurry of action erupts. Several fights, a drunken car chase, plus a hit and run later and Blueface is lying dead whilst Amelia has made a run for it. They’re then introduced Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger); the secretary of justice and mother of Amelia. After giving a believable version of events, she hires the pair to find and protect her daughter.

The next day March is nursing a hangover though still drinking and a small slip of paper found at the party by Jack is the only lead they have. After a moment of seeming, logical, clarity by March, the self confessed worse detective in the world, the duo head for an apartment block in Burbank only to find it’s been demolished for two years, crushing his new found hubris almost immediately. They then end up running into a path of destruction at an airport hotel and a hitman going by the name of John Boy (Matt Bomer). Initially fleeing the scene before turning back, Amelia then falls onto their car and ends up back at March’s house, where she admits to starring in a porn film involving Misty, so she could help bring attention to a air pollution conspiracy involving her mother and Detroit cars. Following, a dream sequence that resembles what I’d imagine an LSD trip to be like and yet another car crash, it quickly becomes evident that they’ve been betrayed by the secretary. A shootout with John Boy then follows and an escaping Amelia makes her last dash into the crosshairs of the hitman. After yet another eureka moment from March, this time he’s on the money, the focus turns to airing a duplicate reel of the film found in Amelia’s, grandmothers house in an attempt to gain justice and expose the whole conspiracy. Many shootouts, chase scenes, falls from height into pools later and a bitter Judith is put away. The car company ends up getting off scot free however, but the new bromance is solidified with the ‘Nice Guys’ investigative agency being formed.

The leading pair of Gosling and Crowe deliver two tremendously entertaining, funny performances. The former playing the bumbling, drunk with sorrowful undertones to perfection. The latter playing the rather portly, brute with a sensitive side equally well. They both appear to have great on and off screen chemistry and it really helps the film and their performances. Angourie Rice almost steals the show though as the young daughter with a mental maturity well beyond her years. Her characters presence acts as the glue which binds March and Jack together. She should be commended for such an assured performance at a still relatively young age. I couldn’t discuss the acting performances without giving high praise to the banter and deadpan delivery of humour between the three, which at times was absolutely hilarious.

Having missed this during its summer 2016 release, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It did a good job of sprinkling in dark humour with some fairly violent moments and it had a decent little story which kept me intrigued throughout. I’d highly recommend giving it a watch.

La La Land (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

LA LA LAND

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt

After recently cleaning up at the Golden Globes, La La Land, the triumphant follow up to Whiplash from Damien Chazelle is a truly beautiful creation. Following in the footsteps of Hollywood classics; such as Singin’ in the Rain and Casablanca, the latter even getting a mention at one point. It’s an immaculately crafted piece of escapism that draws even non-musical fans like myself in with its alluring charm.

Opening with an infectious musical number performed symbolically by young commuters stuck in a gridlocked freeway headed to Los Angeles. They begin exiting their cars, one-by-one, dancing, flipping and performing all sorts of intricate choreographic acrobatics to the ear worm inducing ‘Another Day in the Sun’. The camera weaving exquisitely around, over and through the performers in one continuous take. Following this brash, Broadway-esque introduction, the film begins in earnest panning down to our two leading stars. Mia (Emma Stone); barista come aspiring actress and Seb (Ryan Gosling); a surly, jazz enthusiast and pianist. Some road rage and finger flicking ensues after Seb is trapped behind Mia, who is blissfully unaware that the traffic has began moving again, too busy reciting lines for an audition.

The film continues to follow Mia as she travels to her work at a small coffee shop within a film studio before we see a brief, comically bad audition unfold. Somewhat dejected looking, she arrives home to a flat shared with three other friends. Another musical number soon kicks off and all four head out to a party that proves to be rather anticlimactic. An impounded car later and she’s soon walking past a club on her miserable trek home. Hearing the somber tones of a lonely piano, curiosity gets the better of her and she heads inside. The screen fades to darkness leaving Mia standing, gazing outwardly at the pianist. Seb gets up, barging past a startled Mia and completely ignoring her attempts to talk as he leaves. The film then flips perspective into Sebastian’s life. Just like Mia, he’s pursuing a dream, though not for stardom, but to resurrect an old jazz club to its former glory. He’s living in a grubby apartment, driving without a licence and practising steadfastly on his piano whilst doing small gigs in restaurants and clubs just to get by. “I’m letting life hit me until it gets tired then I’m going to hit back” he tells his sister after the latter attempts an intervention of  sorts.

The third time our charismatic duo meet is at a pool party. Seb having been fired from his previous gig at the restaurant is now part of a dodgy, 80s tribute band and wearing an equally horrendous outfit. Mia spotting him immediately, gets her revenge following the cold shoulder treatment from the mystery man. She requests ‘I Run’ and mimes along mockingly, as Seb positively exuding surliness is forced to play the synth instrumental. Afterwards the pair finally get chatting, the great chemistry between the two becomes immediately apparent and they both end up going for a walk before diving into a cool little tap dance sequence, singing ‘A Lovely Night’ and my what a lovely night it is with the gorgeous violet sky and sparkling lights of the city forming a simply breathtaking backdrop. There’s even lamppost in there, providing a cool little nod to Singin’ in the Rain.

After this moment the pair become entangled in a relationship sprawling the four seasons in a city seemingly blessed with eternal sunshine. The names literally popping up at various points, effectively separate the film into different acts. All seems to be well between our loved up couple. Mia encourages Seb to pursue his dream of opening the jazz club and likewise he pushes for her one-woman show to become a reality, hopefully providing a platform to further success. Though after overhearing her doubting mother and in desperate need of cash to make any of it possible, Seb decides to join an old acquaintance Keith’s (John Legend) jazz/rock band. This becomes an immediate success, earning him a decent pay check finally and he heads out touring shortly after. It’s at this point where the cracks first begin to show; highlighting the overarching theme of the film really. The seemingly incompatibility of pursuing an ambitious career in show business whilst maintaining a long term, loving relationship. There’s a fantastic scene between the two at this point the film which encapsulates this perfectly. During a surprise dinner they have a painful argument about their relationship after Mia hints at Seb selling out on his dream for success and neglecting their relationship whilst away.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are pure magic in this. The on screen chemistry between the two is palpable, which given it’s their third time starring opposite each other, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Stone puts in a fantastic performance as the down in her luck actress and Gosling plays the brooding, often moody, jazz obsessed Seb with equal excellence. Learning to play the piano parts himself over an intense three month period, he looks and sounds the part of a pianist and his heartbreaking performance of Mia and Sebastian’s theme in the final scene is filled with pure emotion. Neither are perfect singers nor dancers by any means, but they do enough in that department.

Visually, it’s a complete masterpiece. Full of rich, vibrant colours and breathtakingly beautiful wide shots. The cinematography is utterly majestic and a testament to Linus Sandgren’s talents. I genuinely didn’t think anything would touch Arrival in that department, but this comes close. Musically, the score is spectacular. The string arrangements, delicate little harp and woodwind instrumentals are pure bliss and only serve to add to the films magic. The accompanying songs such as; City of Stars and the aforementioned Mia and Seb theme are catchy and will stick in the mind for a few days afterwards.

As a person who’s not mad on musicals, I didn’t expect to enjoy this and was pleasantly surprised at just how much it managed to draw me in. I would highly recommend this to anyone.