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_First Snow_ is a tense thriller, but it's entirely psychological, with no violence to speak of. Alfred Hitchcock knew that what's going on in a character's mind can be more interesting than what's going on in reality--as he demonstrated so well in _Vertigo_. _First Snow_ doesn't rise to the level of that classic film, but it's well worth a watch.
Because of its premise, there is an inexorable feel throughout _First Snow_ that we're moving toward something climactic. Vacaro, a fortune teller, played gracefully by J.K. Simmons, tells an arrogant, shifty salesman Jimmy Starks (Guy Pearce) that he will not live beyond the first snow in the upper desert of New Mexico--which, according to the weatherman on the radio, is coming soon. But he has no specific information about how Starks will die.
Needless to say, Starks becomes paranoid and starts ruminating about things he's done in the past that might lead to his demise. There's one red herring, but he eventually realizes the real danger.
The film is a slow burn. It patiently works its way to an ending that is both tragic and thought-provoking. Many critics thought the ending was contrived or not handled well. I disagree. I thought it was perfectly appropriate to the theme of fate versus choice in our lives. And I liked the way the ending was presented. It's not a big violent blow-up scene. It's quiet and straightforward, consistent with the whole feel of the film.
Guy Pearce turns in a strong performance as a man whom we don't like at first because he's such a bullshitter, but as he suffers through his psychological torture, we find ourselves caring about his fate. Supporting actor William Fichtner, as Starks' fellow salesman Ed, is perfect as Starks' foil and buddy.
Piper Perabo, as Starks' girlfriend, is adequate, but her part is under-written. We really know nothing about her.
But maybe that's intentional. This movie is about one self-absorbed man's fate, and everyone else is peripheral.
Action / thriller fans will hate this movie.Viewers who like subtle, psychological / existential movies will appreciate it. Definite 4 stars.
By the way, in the last couple of minutes, note the pickup truck on the road when the radio announcer delivers the bad news. It looks like Vacaro's. Clever.
I'm losing respect for a lot of movie critics. I watched _Drive_ after seeing the 90th percentile Tomatometer ratings and reading a dozen gushing, obsequious reviews about its brilliant acting, cinematography, and atmosphere. I was not rewarded.
_Drive_ is basically a grade B slasher movie pretending to be an art house film. It starts out with an intriguing car chase and a potential developing romance, but in the second half, it degenerates into a repulsive gore fest that undermines any and all viewer credibility.
A lot of people think violence in films can be artistic. Directors like Peckinpah and Tarantino have made millions from it. Nicholas Refn is clearly trying to join the club. We get to witness a man getting a fork stuck in his eye, a knife jammed into a man's throat, and a man getting his head stomped until his head implodes like a pumpkin. Oh yeah, they're all bad guys, but are you having fun watching this? Please explain why. Sorry, folks; its just gratuitous, bloody crap.
Ryan Gosling's acting consists almost entirely of staring at people with a toothpick in his mouth. Yes, laconic leading men can be interesting--Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, et al. Not here.
It's also shameful to see the great Albert Brooks, who built his career on creativity and comic wit, taking a role as a nasty criminal scumbag. It just doesn't work.
Carey Mulligan is not the least bit impressive as the love interest. Other than the fact that she's cute and has a cute kid, there is no plausible reason why Gosling's Driver should fall in love with her. Her character is a cardboard cut out.
To make matters worse, we're subjected to insipid techno-pop music on the soundtrack, including a song in the last scene about "heroes," which was apparently written about Sully Sullenberger, the airline pilot who saved 155 lives by landing his plane in the Hudson River. This does not compute. Sully was not a violent murderer.
Some movies are bad, but they're still well-intentioned, amusing, and entertaining. _Drive_ is just plain bad. There's nothing well-intentioned about it. It's inhumane, gratuitous, pretentious, and nausea-inducing. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one .
It starts out like a Hitchcock film, intriguing, and it devolves into a silly action thriller. Nevertheless, the acting and cinematography are very good, and it's worth a watch. Just don't expect Hitchcock. It does have a good payoff in the very last scene.