Having read the various reviews and watched its director, Nicolas Winding Refn, use the f-word at half eight in the morning when describing his new film to BBC Breakfast’s aghast Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams, I was keener than a world championship tiddlywinks contestant to see the new car film, Drive.
As its title suggests, Drive is part homage, part sequel to the legendary 1978 movie, The Driver, starring Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern and the unfathomably elegant Isabella Adjani.
It is also, claim its creators, supposed to recapture the iconic, insatiably bleak atmosphere first delivered in films like Two Lane Blacktop, Carquake, Vanishing Point and Bullitt.
In one fairly obvious sense, the film succeeds because it is a truly poignant way in which to spend an hour and a half inside a darkened room.
The character at its centre is a stuntman-cum-getaway driver who falls tragically for the wife of someone he’s doing a job for. And for much of the time the tension, mood and sheer suspense of the film is, it must be said, extremely beguiling.
But what Drive resolutely fails to deliver is any actual driving sequences that will make the true rev-head want to stop, rewind and rewatch. There are some passages of driving in it, of course, but they are not especially well executed, neither are they the images you remember the film for, long after its credits have rolled – whereas in films like Le Mans, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, The Driver and so on, the chase sequences and displays of supreme wheelmanship are THE most enduring images of all.
As a result, Drive is not a film for the genuine car nut; for someone who has one hand hovering on the remote in order to rewind and listen to that perfect double-declutch gear change during the Bullitt car chase.
Instead, Drive is an extremely moody, explosively violent thriller that just so happens to have a bloke in it who drives cars. It is not a car film as such, in other words, it’s merely a film – with not even that many cars in it.
Which is probably why the critics like it so very much, and why us sad car types won’t like it very much at all – because proper car films are, let’s face it, more often than not fairly crap films at heart.
To the petrol head, however, this matters not one iota – so long as the gear changes are correct and the driving looks as skilful as it does scary. Which in Drive it most certainly does not.
No, if you want to watch a car film that genuinely hits the spot where it hurts this weekend, go and see Senna instead.
But be warned: you’ll need a handkerchief, as well as a remote control. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.