I never thought a crime drama with Ryan Gosling as a convincing badass and Albert Brooks as a cold-blooded mobster – and both men capable of doing some serious damage to another person without a millisecond’s hesitation – would ever exist anywhere outside the imagination of a deranged lunatic who is clearly unfamiliar with the time-honored Hollywood axiom “cast to type.”
But last year’s Drive, which was originally intended to be a big-budget formula action flick with Hugh Jackman in the lead, came out of nowhere to shatter expectations in a way that was as quick and brutal as how Gosling dispatched that one guy in the elevator scene that has now become a classic movie moment. It wasn’t a massive hit, but most of the people who saw it agreed that it was of 2011’s best films, and it even inspired the single goofiest lawsuit taken out against a movie in some time.
Drive was based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis. Back in April, the author published a follow-up entitled Driven, which so far has been greeted with a mostly positive reaction. Writers have always been the bane of a studio executive’s existence, but the film adaptation of Drive directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (the Pusher trilogy) and written by Hossein Amini (Snow White and the Huntsman) impacted Sallis greatly to the point where it infused his writing of the sequel.
“It was difficult not to visualise Ryan Gosling playing the role when I wrote the sequel,” said the writer in an interview with Charlotte Cripps from the British website The Independent. “I think he really made the character his own. Of course, they made changes in the script – but it has the blood, heart and guts of the book – it feels like my film.”
Without spoiling the ending of Drive for anyone who still hasn’t seen it yet (and if you haven’t you really, really should), I will say that the finale of both the book and movie versions left Gosling’s stuntman and moonlighting getaway driver, known only as Driver, in need of a hasty lifestyle change. In Driven, seven years have past and Driver, who has assumed the name Paul West, is happy and engaged to be married in Phoenix, AZ. When tragedy strikes and his new life is completely shattered Driver vows revenge. As Sallis describes it:
In the same interview Sallis discussed Driven‘s prospects as a feature film: “They love the book.” The Independent article also added that the book was now “in the movie pipeline,” except that Sallis never mentioned who “they” loved the book were. He could have meant Refn or Amini or Drive‘s producers or financiers or some ranking executive at FilmDistrict, but the vagueness of his statement leaves a lot to be desired.
I loved Drive and thought it was the best movie of last year, but the idea of making a sequel in my opinion would kill the power of the original. The story felt complete and ended as it should have. Nothing more needed to be said. While I haven’t yet read Sallis’ follow-up and would not doubt his gifts as a writer for a second, the plot of Driven just sounds like a tired rehash of the original. Sequels to novels adapted into popular movies that are published after the first film’s release tend to be pretty terrible, and if you doubt that assessment then I advise you read Gump & Co. by Winston Groom and Be Cool by Elmore Leonard. The latter novel was turned into a godawful movie in 2005.
That doesn’t exactly mean that a good movie can’t be made out of Driven, even though the book’s plot sounds ripped from one of the Death Wish sequels, but I wouldn’t count on Refn or Gosling being involved in the production if it ever happens. Gosling’s star is fast on the rise and Refn has a full project slate for the coming years. But if by some small miracle the stars properly align and Driven gets its rightful director and star then this might be a movie to watch out for. I’d rather they left it alone.