Drive (2002)

Directed by
Shut up and drive
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-03-22

Four men rob a bank but one of them betrays the others and drives off with the money. The remaining trio jump into the nearest vehicle and demand that the driver "Follow that car!", which he does. Unfortunately he is an ultra straight-laced Shinichi Tsutsumi, who refuses to exceed the speed limit or ignore road signs, so their target gets away. For want of any better ideas the would be bank robbers stay with their new driver and see where the road takes them.

DRIVE is yet another Sabu film that starts with a bungled bank robbery, and yet another Sabu film where you could not possibly predict where it will go from there. It is perhaps the most whimsical and inventive of his films, probably the funniest and the most fully realised version of the ideas that Sabu kept riffing on in his early years as a director.

It's a surprisingly philosophical film, exploring Buddhist concepts of fate neatly articulated by Susumu Terajima in what may be the greatest punk performance on film, then expressed narratively as events unfold. Nothing goes as planned, people never get what they want, but somehow everybody ends up exactly where they need to be by the end of the film.

DRIVE is yet another Sabu film anchored on a superb performance by Shinichi Tsutsumi, playing a complete conformist and stickler for the rules whose suppressed feelings are manifesting as migraine headaches. Susumu Terajima is equally brilliant as a Buddhist priest who isn't living the ideals he preaches, and Ren Osugi is as good as he's ever been as a man that hasn't done much to be proud of. It's Masanobu Ando's first time working with Sabu and he does not disappoint, the two of them seem to have understood each other straight away.

Sabu has a distinctive visual style, not flashy in any way but very... precise. The camera tells its own story, and Sabu's deadpan humour is articulated as much by the editing as by Shinichi Tsutsumi's remarkable range of facial expressions. It makes a presumably small budget go far.

DRIVE basically perfected Sabu's signature style, there was nowhere else it could realistically be taken beyond this. The clean break he made with Dead Run was probably the right decision for the longevity of his career. As much as I'd love to see him return to the absurdist black comedies he started out making I guess I'd always be comparing them to this and Monday, and it's probably too much to ask of any director to top achievements like that.

Aim it to the loneliness and the salvation of the world, and scream!

Possibly in my top ten favourite films.