This existential action/thriller from Nicolas Winding Refn tries too hard to be cool, it’s more like a fashion layout from the editors of VOGUE (circa late ‘70s) than the abstract L.A. noir it strives to be.* And while it’s glossy fun for a while, Refn loses control in the third act, with unintentional laughs & action sequences that play out like one of those glitzy internet serial car commercials. Ryan Gosling, with a slow-mo puppy-dog face for every occasion (check out the priceless puss he puts on after bashing in a henchman’s head) is the professional driver who does movie stunts & crime runs without breaking a sweat. But when he goes all sentimental for the gal down the hall, the one with the cute kid & the ex-con hubby . . . well, no good deed goes unpunished. Soon, the little robbery that was supposed to settle all the old scores pulls in a million bucks of mob money, and everybody’s a target. Gosling gets heaps of sexy rapport with two-timing Christina Hendricks in a small role, but nothing with co-star Carey Mulligan playing the blond good girl. And, in spite of mucho hype, the dark turns from mob partners Ron Perlman & Albert Brooks come off as stunt casting.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Of course, there’s more to the movies than being cool. But if you want to be cool, the first rule is: Don’t try to be cool . . . or, at least, don’t let 'em see you trying. Ergo:
Godard/Belmondo/BREATHLESS/’60 - Cool;
McBride/Gere/BREATHLESS/’83 - Trying to be Cool. Or -
Barry Sonnenfeld’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s GET SHORTY/95 - Cool;
It’s sequel BE COOL/’05 - Misnamed.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: When it comes to sentimental hoods who put their lives on the line for a nice lady, it’s tough to top Max Ophuls' THE RECKLESS MOMENT/’49. Alas, it’s not on DVD. But you can see the sort of lone-wolf abstraction Gosling might be capable of in one of the classic Alain Delon/Jean-Pierre Melville collaborations. Try LE SAMOURAÏ/’67 or LE CERCLE ROUGE/’70.
DOUBLE-BILL: Fans of this should see Michael Mann’s THIEF/’81 and Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER/’78 which are both on the same wave-length.