Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish director of such cult films as the Pusher trilogy, Valhalla Rising and Bronson, won best-director honors at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his latest triumph, Drive, which takes the Los Angeles crime thriller for a spin.
It's territory already covered in such movies as To Live and Die in LA by William Friedkin, Heat and Collateral by Michael Mann and Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino. But Refn, with actor Ryan Gosling, offers an artfully stylized and existential, yet still violent, twist.
Gosling is a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a wheelman for robberies. His rule is you have five minutes to get in and get out with your loot. If you take longer than five minutes, he's gone. His driving style relies more on stealth than speed. He chooses a non-descript car in order to blend in. He'd rather park the car in a hiding spot and wait for the cops to give up than get into a chase. He lives a spartan, uncomplicated life, but things take a turn when he becomes involved with a neighbor lady (Carey Mulligan), a single mother with a young son. It turns out her husband (Oscar Isaac) is due out of prison soon, and Gosling's character takes on the responsibility of helping the man out of a jam.
Out comes the hammer as he finds himself in conflict with a mobster, played by Albert Brooks in a major turning point for his career. Ron Perlman is another thuggish gangster, and Brian Cranston is Gosling's game-legged mechanic boss. Christina Hendricks also stars as an accomplice in a heist.
Refn, in Thailand to make his next film, Only God Forgives, a Bangkok-set crime thriller, says Gosling's character undergoes a transformation into a superhero, and his symbol is the giant scorpion, embroidered into the back of his jacket. Gosling has his scorpion just like Thailand as the Red Eagle, Refn said at the recent press screening, referring to Insee Dang, the masked vigilante most famously portrayed in Thai films of the 1960s by superstar Mitr Chaibancha.
Drive has been controversial. The script languished in Hollywood's studio system for years until Refn got hold of it. He tinkered with it so much, the studios rejected it, saying it wasn't the film he'd promised them. So he made it an independent project. Viewers have also been upset. One woman in the U.S. filed a lawsuit, claiming she'd been mislead into seeing Drive because it was touted as a fast-paced hot-rod movie like The Fast and the Furious.
Drive isn't like that. It's a different kind of thrill. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Esplanade and Paradise) and House on RCA. Rated 18+.
In Time – Justin Timberlake is a man living in the future when everyone stops ageing at 25, and time is literally money. The wealthy live forever while the poor have to beg, borrow and steal enough minutes to make it through another day. Accused of murder, he has to figure out a way to expose the corrupt system. Amanda Seyfried also stars. Andrew Niccol directs. He's the writer-producer of such dystopian sci-fi films as Gattaca and The Truman Show, and also the director of Lord of War. In Time faces a lawsuit from sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison, who says it's substantially the same as his "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman". It's just being released this week, so there's not yet a critical consensus. Rated 13+.
The Lion King – Back in cinemas in 3D for just two weeks, Disney's 1994 animated tale takes on dark Shakespearian tones as it follows the life of a lion cub who would be king, who is betrayed by his evil uncle Scar. The young lion becomes a fugitive, and is befriended by the ragtag duo of a meerkat and warthog who teach him the philosophy of a carefree life with the song "Hakuna Matata". Music is by Tim Rice and Elton John with the voice cast featuring Matthew Broderick as Simba, James Earl Jones as King Mufasa, Jeremy Irons as Scar, Rowan Atkinson as Zazu and Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings as hyenas. When The Lion King 3D was released in the U.S. a month or so ago, it was No. 1 at the box office, leading Disney to plan more 3D re-releases, which will include Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid as well as Pixar's Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. Critical reception is mostly positive. At Major Cineplex (including EGV, Paragon, Esplanade and Paradise). Rated G.
Grave Encounters – The Canadian filmmaking team who call themselves The Vicious Brothers offer this horror flick that uses the same "found footage" style as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield in which the crew of a ghost-hunting reality-TV series encounters supernatural occurences in an old psychiatric hospital. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 13+.
With Bangkok's flood crisis worsening, many movie screenings and events have been cancelled or postponed.
Tonight's screening of Francois Truffaut's The Woman Next Door at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand has been cancelled.
The World Film Festival of Bangkok has been postponed from November 4 to 13 until January 20 to 27.
Several other films that were set to be released this week are now on hold, and will presumably be rescheduled when the flood crisis is over.
In addition, there is a taxi shortage, so it may be more difficult to get around the city. You might emerge from a movie to find yourself stranded. Many roads are under water. Bus services are being re-routed. The BTS skytrain and MRT subway lines might be curtailed.
Embedded above is a video that explains the flooding situation.