A question that's been on many fearful minds since his former employer, "New York Press," went the way of all alternative weeklies has been answered: Bracing movie critic Armond White is now the editor of CityArts, a publication of the Press's parent company, Manhattan Media. He's still doing the Lord's work as a film reviewer, too, and he's in good form.
So many better movies echo throughout the wannabe thriller Drive—including bad movies, like the entire Michael Mann catalog—that the resonance nearly drowns out the film’s brazen imitation of one particularly good movie: Walter Hill’s 1978 The Driver.
That Ryan O’Neal film now becomes a Ryan Gosling vehicle—an immediate decline. Gosling plays a loner stuntman who does underworld transport for Jewish mobsters on Hollywood’s fringe. His jaded view of life is part of his alienated cool, warmed over by a single mother waitress (cry-baby Carey Mulligan) awaiting the arrival of her ex-con Latino boyfriend. Director Nicolas Winding Refn shows no sense of how classes and ethnicities mix in L.A. He prefers evoking the sleek, unreal, existential cool of film noir loners.
But Refn’s cinephilia is specious and imprecise, while Hill’s revisionist modernism uncannily updated the aesthetic and spiritual essence of both American and European noir (Anthony Mann as well as Jean-Pierre Melville) into an original, idiosyncratic vision. Hill’s The Driver wasn’t a thriller it was thrilling, featuring the best on-screen car chases to this day. Refn, infected by Mann, produces fake toughness, fake sentimentality and fake style.