October 10, 2011
For a very long time, my boys have been clamoring to go fishing. Today, with marvelous weather and no work, seemed the perfect opportunity. We went to Target in the morning and purchased two rods (one of which, happily, was called “The Ugly Stik” [sic]), then came home, where the boys dug worms out of the garden dirt while I made lunch. Then we made for my favorite location on the Connecticut, the railroad bridge at the north end of Riverfront Park in Hartford.
The fishing was, frankly, lackluster. I don’t know what the boys expected, but they soon found out what I already knew: it is basically boring. It’s a contemplative activity, if we can call it an activity at all, because really it’s an excuse to sit outdoors quietly near water. But four- and seven-year-olds are, as a general rule, nonplussed by the quiet contemplation of nature, and both were quickly grousing about the lack of action.
Luckily, just then, Reuben caught a fish:
He seems calm in this picture, but when he was reeling the line in and saw that he actually had a fish, he started to whoop and holler and jump and down, and I thought he might pitch himself off the damn bridge. (The fish was about five inches long, and was tossed back to the river after being handled with great curiosity by both children.)
After that, nibbles were scarce, but there were other highlights. First, somewhat frighteningly, an actual train engine came across the bridge, something I have never witnessed in the four years I’ve been going there. We learned that the walkway beside the tracks gets very very narrow when a train comes by, but we stood with our backs against the railing and we were OK.
Then, we got a long and close-up look at a hawk, who was perched about ten feet up on a water treatment building near the bridge:
We followed that with a stroll down the tracks to the trainyard, which yielded many attractions, both natural and man-made:
Finally, sun-baked and tired, I labored slowly home with the boys on the back of my bicycle, and we all settled in for a bath, a movie, and copious, restorative doses of lemonade.
October 1, 2011
I recently traveled to Philadelphia by train, and was reminded of what a unique view one gets of the world from the tracks. There are ramshackle rear porches, long-forgotten business signs from an age when the facade facing the tracks mattered, and patches of wilderness just out of sight of city and sprawl. Back when I was taking the train to Bridgeport three or more days a week for work, I had the idea to walk stretches of track and take pictures of everything I saw, but I never got around to it (probably because of the demands of a job that required two and a half hours of commuting on most days). The trip to Philly reminded me of this forgotten project, and being as I’m now self-employed and in more control of my time, I vowed to try again. Today was the first attempt, with a five-and-a-half-mile walk from the waterfront in Hartford, along railroad tracks parallel to the river, up into Windsor. I had the good fortune to run into a friend on the way downtown, who was happy to join me, so we got to catch up as we wandered. Here’s some of what we saw:
September 29, 2011
Ernest Borgnine, native of Connecticut, has a posse.
(The back story is that some friends and I were talking about Ernest Borgnine (why? who knows? do we need a reason to talk about Hamden’s greatest export?) and it occurred to us that “Borgnine” sounds like an adjective. I am hoping that this stylish, print-ready image will give Mr. Borgnine the one thing that his wide-ranging and much celebrated career has not yet yielded: streed cred.)
September 27, 2011
September 27, 2011
Spelling words are a big deal in second grade, and the prescribed method of learning one’s weekly words is to write them on small cards and place them around one’s house. Max has taken this very much to heart, and the result is a strange sort of poetry. Here is our front door:
And here is the door to Max & Reuben’s room:
Our bedroom door:
And the bathroom:
September 21, 2011
I saw this movie, Drive, the other night. If you want to see it and don’t want to know what happens, stop reading now. Otherwise, I present you with a 6,000-word synopsis of the whole movie.
OK, so here’s what happens: Ryan Gosling plays this weird, maybe autistic dude who is good at driving. The movie opens with him explaining the terms of his getaway driver service: you tell him a time and a place and he gives you a five-minute window. He is very clear, and we will hear this a couple times throughout the movie, that if you do not get in the car within that five minutes, he will not be there for you. Unfortunately, we never get to see this rule put into practice, which is maybe good, because it’s the sort of rule that would definitely hold up in a court of law (putting aside that any contract containing it would be void anyway because a contract to do a crime is against the public interest), but would probably not withstand the scrutiny or patience of criminals, who would likely want to exact some sort of thuggish revenge if their highly paid ride took off just because they were two minutes late, especially if the departure led to incarceration or a financial loss. Instead, we see him getting ready for a job: he goes to a garage and picks up a plain-jane, late-model silver Impala, which the mechanic helpfully tells us (a) is the most common car in California and (b) has been modified to have “300 horses under the hood.” That means it is super fast – more fast than a regular Impala. In case we weren’t quite following, the mechanic adds, speaking to Ryan Gosling, who presumably knows this already, that the Impala will make him inconspicuous. It is a fairly standard, and probably unnecessary narrative device. Another standard narrative device, known as foreshadowing, would have been for the mechanic to add, “I wonder if it is inconspicuous enough to keep you from getting embroiled in a showdown with local gangsters, fuelled by revenge and a strange, inchoate romantic interest in a married woman.” Instead, we cut to the getaway. Some dudes in ski masks break into a place while Ryan Gosling, whose character never gets a name other than “the kid,” waits in the portentous Impala. We see his routine, which involves strapping a wristwatch to his steering wheel and setting it to midnight in order to time his contractually permitted five minutes. He turns on a police scanner and also a Clippers – Raptors game on the radio (I know! Who cares about the Clippers? But be patient – all will be revealed), and takes some care to balance the volume of the two. He hears the break-in reported on the scanner but remains calm. He hears that units are being dispatched to the area, and still, he is unperturbed. One of the two robbers comes back but the other dallies, and the first robber is nervous, but Ryan Gosling is chill. You will notice that Ryan Gosling remains calm pretty much all the time. One wonders if his forbearance comes from his state of namelessness, which, while presumably of his own choosing, must also lead to some confusion (like later in the film, when he calls his neighbor’s seven-year-old and says, “It’s me,” and the kid is like, “Hi,” and Ryan Gosling is like, “Is your mother there?” and the kid is like, “She’s talking to the police right now,” and Gosling is like, “Well, tell her I called,” which is all normal, but we’re left to wonder what the kid will tell her. “He called.” “Who?” “You know – him. The guy.”). Anyway, finally the other robber gets there and Ryan Gosling starts driving, and he’s listening to the police scanner and playing a cat-and-mouse game with the cops, who have gotten a report of a silver Impala (darn! shoulda just gone with a Mustang or something), which involves pulling behind a parked truck and killing the lights, hiding under an overpass to avoid the roving spotlight of a police helicopter, and, briefly, accelerating and doing crazy skid-turns to shake one cruiser that has actually turned its flashing lights on and started to give chase. All the while, the Clippers game is on, and after he shakes the cruiser he turns it up a bit, and it happens to be the final seconds of the game, and just as it’s ending, with the Clippers improbably winning, he turns into a parking garage, which is actually, it turns out, at the Staples Center, and he parks just in time for him and his (now unmasked) robbers to disappear into the unheard-of, post-Clippers-victory revelry that is engulfing the parking structure. (Get it? He’s really good at what he does, and also totally unconnected to the quotidian concerns of ordinary men. You thought he cared about the Clippers? Ha! He was just planning the perfect escape. He would have done the same thing if it were the Lakers, because his only loyalty is to driving.)
The next day, he is in a police uniform, and for a minute we’re like, “Whoa! That’s a crazy wrinkle!” But it turns out he is just in costume, doing a stunt for a movie. The mechanic who provided the Impala, whose name, we will learn, is Shannon, is there, because apparently he also has some role in coordinating stunts for movies. Ryan Gosling puts on an awesome rubbery face hood thing so he looks like some other guy, then signs a release proffered by a geeky studio dude, then quickly flips a police car onto a median. Shannon runs over to check on him and since he has on the expressionless rubber mask, he just gives a thumbs up.
At his apartment building, he rides up in the elevator with his neighbor, a young woman whose name, we will eventually learn, is Irene. He asks her what floor and she says four, and he presses that, and they get off on the same floor, because they live down the hall from one another, and as they are each unlocking their respective doors, he regards her for a moment and it is evident that she is the love interest in this film, but it is equally evident that he is kind of creepy and maybe also some sort of simpleton or idiot savant or something. His apartment is very bare. Later, he sees her at the grocery store and learns that she has a son of about seven. He sees them before they see him and he calmly retreats to an adjoining aisle, where he briefly listens to them talking to one another playfully. When he gets out of the store with his single bag of groceries, he stands beside his car for a long time, gazing into space, which is pretty much in keeping with his laconic, dreamy disposition. But then we see that Irene and her kid are looking forlornly at the smoking engine of their car, and Ryan Gosling walks over and offers help – he was gazing right at them and deciding, I guess, whether to help or not. It’s not clear if he fixes the car because the next thing we see is him carrying their groceries into their apartment for them, so we don’t know if he gave them a ride or if he fixed their car, or what, but I suppose that doesn’t matter all that much. In the apartment, he says very little. The kid, whose name is Benicio, appears wearing a scary pumpkin/skeleton mask, and Ryan Gosling, speaking as always in his working class accent that seems to originate from somewhere between Canarsie and South Philly, says, “Scary,” but he says it completely without affect. After a long pause, he says to Benicio, “You want a toothpick?” (because he always has a toothpick in his mouth – I forgot to mention that) and Benicio nods, and Ryan Gosling gives him the toothpick. Then Irene comes in and offers him water, which he grudgingly accepts, and he sees a little snapshot of Benicio and some dude and just looks at it, which is the equivalent of asking, “Who’s that?” for a guy who never talks, and Irene says, “That’s Benicio’s dad,” and this time Ryan Gosling actually says, “Where is he?” and she says, “In prison,” and he doesn’t say anything, I think, or maybe he says, “I’m sorry,” but if he does, he waits so long to say it that it seems like a non-sequitur. There is also, in this scene, some chat about what he does, which is drive in stunts and work at a garage, which he says is on Reseda Boulevard, which I know is a totally real place because it’s in the Tom Petty song “Free Fallin’.” Then we see him at the garage, which is the same one where Shannon works, and he is, you know, working on a car, and Irene and Benicio show up and start talking to Shannon about how their car broke down right there, which, you know, what are the chances? But whatever. Ryan Gosling walks over and smiles, and it is evident to Shannon that they know each other and that there is, inexplicably, chemistry between them, and when Shannon learns that they are neighbors, he presses Gosling into driving them home, because he somehow knows right away that their car won’t be fixed for a few days. He also confides to Irene that he underpays Gosling, and that Gosling is an excellent mechanic, and that he has been working there for maybe five years. Then Gosling drives them home, and he and Irene just keep looking at each other and half-smiling in the car, and then he’s like, “Want to see something cool?” and they’re down, so he takes them driving on that concrete culvert/river thing where car chases always happen in movies, which I understand is called the LA River, maybe? Anyway, they drive there and sometimes drive up on the diagonal side part, which is fun, I guess, and also no one is wearing a seatbelt but it is OK. Then they come to a place that is the end of the concrete part, where there is a real stream with trees and stuff, and they stop there and play or reflect or something, and weird music takes over for the lack of dialogue, music with a refrain that goes something like “A real human being, and a hero,” which, well, what the fuck? Then we see him carrying a sleeping Benicio into the building, which has got to be the most cliched thing ever when it comes to tough guys whose hearts are melted by little kids, especially little kids belonging to vulnerable but tough single women, and then he and Irene have a moment, in which they say very little, half-smile a lot, and he offers to drive them around during the weekend, presumably while the car is in the shop. He is wearing a dirty white t-shirt at this moment – a v-neck, which is in keeping with his general hipster look. His wardrobe through the whole movie consists of:
A light blue v-neck t-shirt;
A button-up denim shirt/jacket thing;
Leather driving gloves of the holes-at-the-knuckles variety, like you might buy from the Sharper Image catalog. He wears these when driving and, on one occasion, when threatening a lady. Otherwise, they protrude from the back pocket of his skinny jeans like batting gloves in Ricky Henderson’s Oakland A’s uniform;
An ivory-colored, quilted jacket with gusseted sleeves (the sleeves are surrounded by black stretchy fabric) and a big yellow scorpion embroidered on the back. You want there to be some significance to this unusual jacket, but all we get is one moment when Ryan Gosling is talking on the phone to a gangster and asks him if he knows the story of the frog and the scorpion, and then says that the frog didn’t make it across the pond, which is his way of saying that he has killed the gangster’s partner by drowing him in the ocean. Ryan Gosling really likes this jacket and does not change out of it even when it gets a lot of blood spattered on it.
Anyway, he and Irene drive around together that weekend. At one point, he is hanging out in the apartment with her and Benicio (waiting for a babysitter, we will learn), watching that cartoon movie with the sharks in it where Will Smith does the voice of one of the characters, and he and Benicio have a conversation about whether all sharks are evil. Then he goes out with Irene to drive around. After a while, she puts her hand on his while he is driving. Then later she gets a phone call and tells him it was her husband’s lawyer, calling to say that her husband will get out of prison in a week. When confronted with this (perhaps disappointing) news, Ryan Gosling says exactly nothing.
We find out that Shannon the mechanic has a plan to start a Nascar team with Ryan Gosling as his driver, and he goes to a local gangster named Bernie Rose for backing in this endeavor. While they are talking, Bernie is joined by his partner Nino, who asks Shannon how his leg is, to which Shannon replies, “I paid my debt,” and that is how we understand that Nino (who seems maybe Italian, but turns out to be Jewish and named Izzy) is a real leg-breaking type of gangster (pelvis-breaking, actually, we later find out), and that Shannon is a hard-luck guy who has an unhappy history with gangsters. Shannon gets Bernie to go see Ryan Gosling drive a racecar around a track, which persuades Bernie to pony up $300,000 for the purchase of this car (and related expenses, presumably), with an agreement that he will get 70% of profits. When Ryan Gosling meets Bernie at the racetrack, he is weird and laconic and takes forever to take his driving gloves off before even saying that his hands are kinda dirty and so he shouldn’t shake hands, all while Bernie has his hand extended, waiting for a handshake. Bernie says, maybe a little ominously, that his hands are dirty too. Back at the garage, Nino disparages the racecar, which he says looks boring, and instead extolls the virtue of some swanky mid-50s convertible, declaring it a “pussymobile” or something. Shannon says, under his breath, that Nino could not find pussy in a whorehouse. Ryan Gosling, reliably, says nothing.
So then Irene’s husband comes home from prison and there is a party at their apartment, in which weird music blasts and he offers a heartfelt toast to Irene for sticking by him, and says that he did a bad thing but is committed to making the most of his second chance. He toasts with a bottle of Budweiser and I wonder whether it might have been worth it for his wife and family to spring for something a little more top-shelf, but then I suppose there was a complicated deal with Anheuser-Busch to make that happen, just as there was a deal with Denny’s so that Irene would be a waitress there, and with Chevrolet, for the Impala. While music from the party pounds on his wall, Ryan Gosling sits in the dark at a table with one bright light – the kind with the round, donut bulb that people use to do careful, up-close work – and tinkers with some mechanical thing – it probably goes in a car, but we never find out. He keeps poking at it with a flathead screwdriver, and there is a can of WD-40 nearby. At some point, he picks the thing up – it is about the size of sixpack of soda, but with less uniform dimensions– and fixes to leave the apartment. In the hallway, he encounters Irene sitting on the floor beside her door with no shoes on, the way people do in apartment buildings when they are a little bit overwhelmed by parties. They engage in the almost-no-talking equivalent of banter, her apologizing for the noise, him smiling and saying he was going to call the cops, her saying she wishes he would. Then her husband, who is inexplicably named Standard, comes out of the apartment with Benicio, carrying a bag of trash to be taken to a compactor room or dumpster or something. Standard and Ryan Gosling have a charged interaction in which Standard asks whether Gosling has been hanging around the apartment and “helping out,” and Gosling doesn’t answer, and Standard is the only person in the movie whom this seems to bother, because he’s like, “Hey! I’m talking to you!” and then Gosling answers, and that is that, and we think they will have a difficult relationship, but it turns out they won’t.
Another day comes, and Ryan Gosling is again driving around. We see him drive through a parking garage and pass two dudes who look like trouble, one in a track suit, and as he drives slowly past the track suit one uses his finger to make a shooting gun gesture at Gosling, and looking back, Gosling sees that he is carrying some sort of baseball bat or club or something. Then he is out of the car and discovers Benicio standing in a hallway (of their building, presumably), looking terrified, and a short distance away, Standard is on the floor all beaten up. Gosling walks right past Standard’s bloody self to make sure Benicio is OK. Later, the three of them are in Standard and Irene’s apartment (she is out) as Standard cleans himself up, and he explains to Gosling that the track suit guy and the other one are dudes to whom he owes protection money from when he was in prison, and they beat him up and want him to rob a pawn shop somewhere in order to square up, but he doesn’t want to because he’s trying to go straight, and the dudes have threatened to come after Irene and Benicio next, so Standard doesn’t know what he will do. Then we see that Benicio is holding an unfired bullet, given to him by the track suit guy and his colleague, with instructions not to lose it. Ryan Gosling says, in his nondescript northeast white guy accent, “You want me to hold onto that for ya?” and Benicio nods, and Gosling gives one of his weird half-smiles, which is extra weird given the circumstances.
Long story short: Gosling agrees to help Standard do the heist. He and Standard present this plan to track suit guy, who is accompanied by the tawdry-but-beautiful Blanche, whose gold earrings helpfullys say “Blanche.” Track suit guy is like, “Standard, whaddya need this guy for when you got Blanche? Look at her! She’s beautiful!” This is true, if unconvincing as it concerns the potential success of the robbery, as Blanche is played by the lovely Christina Hendricks. She mostly pouts. Anyway, Gosling gives his five-minute time window spiel to track suit guy, who says, “Here’s the amount I’m going to give to Standard, here’s Blanche’s cut, and here’s what you get,” and he’s writing on his hand with a marker the whole time, and then he shows his hand to Gosling and it says FUCK OFF! But Gosling doesn’t bat an eye and he’s like, look, I’ll do it for free if you just let Standard off the hook for his debt, and track suit guy is like, OK. But here’s what you don’t know (but I know, because I saw the movie, so I’m telling you so it will all make sense): There’s a small-time mobster from Philly who wants to get in on Bernie and Nino’s action, and he has stashed a million bucks at a pawn shop, and Nino finds out about this and is apparently in some kind of cahoots with the pawn shop operator. Also, Nino lets on (later, when all this is explained) that he has a chip on his shoulder about being a west-coast, Jewish gangster, because when he is telling Bernie why he planned this heist to steal from the Philly guy, Bernie is like, dude, if you get the Mob on us we’re both dead, to which Nino says, “Fuck them. They’re the ones who called me a kike to my face,” or something to that effect. Anyway, so Nino has a plan to rob the pawn shop, or rather, to make it look like a regular robbery as a way to get all that money, and the whole plan is to have Standard do it then get shot dead (I think). So once Ryan Gosling inserts himself in the plan, the idea is for him and Standard to die, so when they go there, Gosling and Standard show up and Blanche is waiting outside. Standard and Blanche go in, and then Blanche comes out with a duffel bag o’ cash, and then as Standard is coming out, he gets killed, and there is another car there, so when Gosling and Blanche pull out, the other car gives chase, and Gosling is driving a late-model Mustang that he stole effortlessly for the occasion, but whatever this other car is has just as much oomph as the Mustang, and it’s trying to run them off the road, but Gosling does lots of fancy tricky driving, involving driving backward really fast for a bit, and eventually causes the other car to crash so he can get away.
Did I mention that after working out the deal (such as it was) with track suit guy but prior to undertaking the ill-fated heist, Ryan Gosling was invited to dinner with Irene, Standard, and Benicio on a couple of occasions, and Standard warmed to Gosling? That happened. Irene was unaware of the whole plan, or even of who had beat up Standard (he told her it was drunk kids).
Anyway, Ryan Gosling and Blanche end up in a motel with a duffel bag full of loot. They are at some sort of rendezvous spot or something. Gosling is bugging out, of course, because, well, why was that other car there? And then he turns on the news and there’s a report about the robbery where the pawn shop owner says there was only one robber, the one who got shot (Standard). Well, that’s not going to fly with Ryan Gosling! He starts slowly, deliberately putting on and adjusting his driving gloves, like Derek Jeter, but less frenetic, and as he’s doing this, he’s asking Blanche, “Why would he say there was only one robber?” and Blanche is basically blanching and she’s like, I don’t know. So Gosling gets his gloves on and comes over to Blanche and asks her again, pretty much, like, what the fuck, the other car, etc.?! And she says again that she doesn’t know, and he smacks her, and then he holds her down against the bed with one hand over her mouth and holds his other (gloved) hand above him as though he had a gun, but it is just a fist, and he tells her that when he takes his hand away, only the truth should come out of her mouth or he will hurt her, and sometimes he makes his non-gun-holding hand into a pointing hand that strains against the confines of the driving glove in a way that says, “I don’t have a gun but I am perfectly capable of poking you in the eye or some other unpleasantness, so you’d best do as I say.” Well, Blanche buys that, and she explains that it was a set-up, that the other car was meant to slow them down, etc. He points at her a couple more times menacingly, finds out track suit guy’s name (Chris Cook, maybe), and finds out where he can be found (you will not be surprised to learn that it is a strip club!). Then Blanche is released to touch up her makeup in the bathroom, and while she is there, her phone buzzes and Ryan Gosling looks at it, and at the text message that the buzz presumably announced, then looks at her and starts to grab the mattress off the bed to put it against the door, the knob of which has just started to twitch as if handled from without. Just then, a dude appears outside the window to the bathroom, although Blanche does not see him because she is looking at herself in the mirror, and he actually blows poor Blanche’s head pretty much off. It is really gross. At the same time, someone starts banging against the locked front door of the motel room. Ryan Gosling has been hit in the arm by some shotgun pellets but he remains calm and stands just outside the door to the bathroom. When the shotgun guy, who has come through the bathroom window, heads into the main part of the motel room, shotgun barrel first, Gosling grabs the barrel, pushes the butt of the gun back in the guy’s gut, then really beats the tar out of him till he’s dead. (I remember seeing Hawk from “Spencer for Hire” use the same technique of grabbing the barrel of a gun as it poked into a room in order to get the better of the gun’s unsuspecting wielder, so I understood as I watched the film just what Ryan Gosling was doing. I wonder if he saw that episode of “Spencer” too.) Just as shotgun guy is subdued, front door guy breaks the door down, and Ryan Gosling shoots him with the shotgun. Gosling’s face and his awesome scorpion jacket are totally covered in blood spatter. He will wear the jacket for the rest of the movie, pretty much – it’s like his revenge talisman or something. (Also, speaking of the jacket, there was this other scene, pre-bloodbath, where Ryan Gosling is eating at a diner, and this was the scene where I first noticed the scorpion jacket’s awesome gusseted sleeves, and in the scene, there is a trucker-looking guy down the counter from Gosling who keeps looking at him, and my first thought was that he, like me, was appreciating the gusseted sleeves, but then he comes over and says, “remember me?” because Gosling was his getaway driver at some point, I guess. So Gosling listens to this guy talk conspiratorially for a sec, and then he suddenly lifts his head up and says, “How about this? Shut your fucking mouth or I’ll kick your teeth down your throat and shut it for you.” The guy slinks away.)
So Ryan Gosling and his bloody jacket go to the strip club where Chris the track suit guy can be found. Upon entering, Gosling encounters a scantily clad woman standing in some sort of corridor, looking at an iPhone, which is notable because everyone else in the film has an old-as-fuck flip phone, which suggests that for all their gangsterism and big-money heists, these folks are not maintaining as steady an income as a middling stripper. Maybe there’s a message there. Anyway, Gosling asks iPhone stripper where Chris is at. There is a needlessly long pause (and I mean, needless for me. Ryan Gosling’s character seems to thrive on this kind of communication inertia, so maybe this pause made her the hottest stripper ever in his book) and then she says, “In the dressing room.” Naturally, he pauses for fucking ever, and then asks (wait for it), “Where’s the dressing room.” Eventually, she says, “over there.” It’s the sparsest, most unimportant dialogue ever, but it has been stretched over the frame and time of a meaningful scene, which is, I guess, cinematic artistry. As Gosling walks down another corridor to the dressing room, we see that he is carrying a hammer, and then we know that he is about to engage in some ass-kicking (or carpentry!). Chris the track suit guy is in the middle of a bunch of seated, naked strippers who look decidedly non-plussed. Ryan Gosling kicks his ass with alacrity and then holds the bullet that Chris once gave to Benicio against Chris’s forehead, as one might hold a nail if one intended to hammer into the forehead of a guy wearing a track suit, with his other hand holding the hammer aloft. The strippers act totally uninterested, as though this type of shit were not only run of the mill, but actually, affirmatively boring. So Ryan Gosling is in the middle of a room full of busty naked ladies with exactly the same disposition as he has. Nevertheless, he keeps his cool. He gets Chris to tell him who he works for – Nino – and then asks to talk to Nino, so one of the strippers gets Nino on the phone. Nino and Gosling have a heated exchange about the money from the heist, how Gosling will give it to Nino, and then Gosling hangs up and makes Chris swallow the bullet. Did I mention that Ryan Gosling was wearing his driving gloves during this scene? He was. Driving gloves, swallowed bullets, and bored naked chicks. This is America.
So at first I was a little confused by the exchange between Gosling and Nino, because Gosling says he wants to meet to return the money, but he doesn’t say where. Also, Nino asks (sensibly), “what do you get out of it?” and Ryan Gosling responds, showing a flair for language that we didn’t heretofore know he possessed, “That’s just it: out of it.” Nice. But really, does he think he’ll get out of it? He’s crossed mobsters and taken their money, and you don’t have to see that many movies to know that it won’t end well for a person in that situation. Even the backstory of this movie tells us that Ryan Gosling will end up, at the least, with a broken pelvis, like Shannon. Oh, and what about Shannon? Where does he figure in this mess? Well, when the heist first went wrong, Ryan Gosling told Shannon about it. This was before they realized that Nino (and, by extension, Bernie, his partner) was behind the whole thing, so Shannon stupidly told Bernie about the whole mess. Then at one point when Ryan Gosling and Irene were in the elevator of their building, there was another dude in the elevator, a mobster-looking dude, and as they were all standing in the elevator, Gosling sees that he has a gun under his white sport coat (!). So Gosling kisses Irene in a slow-motion way that is so intense that it makes the lights in the elevator dim and the background music swell, and then Gosling just wilds out on the dude, smashing his head into the side of the elevator and ultimately stomping on his head until it crunches disgustingly. He actually grabs onto the railing of the elevator to gain head-stomping leverage, and the sound effects are truly, truly revolting. By then, the elevator has stopped at the garage and Irene steps out and just looks back at Ryan Gosling with the sort of look you might have on your face if you had just watched a laconic pretty boy kill a guy with his shoe. She then walks away, but the point is that Gosling realizes that Nino’s thugs were IN HIS BUILDING, so he meets with Shannon to be like, WTF, and Shannon admits talking to Bernie, and Ryan Gosling is soooooo pissed, but he just tells Shannon to leave town and never come back, but that doesn’t work out because as Shannon is lugging a suitcase through his darkened garage (in a subsequent scene), Bernie is there and kills him. Bernie, at another point, kills track suit Chris by stabbing him in the eye with a fork and then in the throat many times with a kitchen knife. These two killings tell us that, although he is played by Albert Brooks and seems sort of lovable, Bernie is every bit as cold-blooded as Nino, who is played by Ron Perlman and is appreciably less appealing. Also, Ryan Gosling later finds Shannon dead in the garage and tilts Shannon’s head to one side to look at his faded neck tattoo of a horseshoe. Ryan Gosling is sad at this point but neither talks nor cries.
So Shannon is dead and there is no set appointment for the exchange of the loot, but Ryan Gosling, still in his blood-spattered scorpion jacket and skinny jeans, goes to a trailer on a film set and just walks inside, probably because he is a known stuntman, and Hollywood people don’t even bat an eye when stuntmen show up covered in blood, and inside he gets a rubbery mask like the one he wore in the stunt scene early in the movie. Then we see him parked outside Nino’s pizzeria at night (did I mention that Nino has a pizzeria, which appears to be a front business? He does. It’s where a lot of the conversations between him and Bernie happen, and where track suit Chris got killed). He puts on the rubbery mask and goes up to the door, which is mostly painted over in a red checkerboard pattern. Looking through, Ryan Gosling sees Nino, some other wiseguys, and a bunch of pretty ladies dancing and engaging in mobster-type revelry. Ryan Gosling goes back to his car and waits, and eventually Nino leaves in another car, with a livieried driver, and Gosling follows. If you were hoping for an awesome chase scene here, which, frankly, a movie called “Drive” ought to have more of, well, sorry. He just follows Nino at a safe distance for a long time, then speeds up and rams Nino’s car from behind in such a way as to send it skidding to the side of the road near a cliff by the beach. The chauffeur gets out at that point and looks around, but he and Nino are all alone, so he gets back in and Nino says, “let’s get the fuck out of here,” but just then, headlights and revving engine and BAM! Ryan Gosling slams his car into Nino’s from the side so as to send it flying off the cliff. It lands on the beach about 30 feet below, and as Nino stumbles away, Gosling looms up with his freaky rubber stuntman mask and holds Nino’s head under the ocean water. There is probably symbolism in this.
Afterward, Ryan Gosling having said his cryptic frog/scorpion thing to Bernie Rose as a prelude to arranging a meeting with him, they meet. I really don’t see the angle on this one, but Bernie apparently does, because he tells Gosling right away when they meet in a Chinese restaurant (with our man still sporting the bloody scorpion jacket) that he will guarantee Irene’s safety if he can just have the money. Ryan Gosling is cool with that, and he’s basically, inexplicably, willing to throw away his whole carefully constructed, bare apartment, taciturn lifestyle for a lady he really barely knows and definitely hasn’t slept with, or, for that matter, exchanged 100 words with. But whatever, they go to the car to get the money, but Bernie stabs Ryan Gosling (of course!), but Ryan Gosling has his own shiv and stabs Bernie back, and then we see the shadow of the two of them struggling, and luckily, Ryan Gosling has his Tim Raines batting gloves thing going on with the driving gloves, so we can tell whose shadow is whose and we see that it is Bernie who crumples to the ground. Then we look at Ryan Gosling sitting very very still in the car with his eyes open for a very very long time. It’s so long that were it anyone but his character, we’d conclude that the person was definitely dead, but with him, the camera might pull back to reveal that he is in an animated conversation with another person. In fact, he is neither dead nor in a conversation. Eventually he blinks and somehow his stab wounds end up being OK, and he drives off, AND THAT IS THE END OF THIS WEIRD MOVIE.
Did I mention that the credits are in that weird, half-cursive font that looks like it was used in “Into The Night” with Jeff Goldblum, and possibly also “Cocktail” and “Flashdance”? They are. It’s a weird choice. The soundtrack is also strange, with lots of synthy music of the sort that is recent but sounds like it is trying to be from the 80s.