I know this movie came out a while back but I’ve been thinking about it lately and it’s relationship to Budo so I thought I would share my thoughts.
To summarize, Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed character referred to as kid or driver. He’s a professional wheel man for hire who lives by a code and when he vows to protect a family, he effectively breaks that code and things begin to spiral out of control setting off a chain reaction of events that propel the film forward.
Driver: “If I drive for you, you get your money. You tell me where we start, where we’re going, where we’re going afterwards. I give you five minutes when we get there. Anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours. No matter what. Anything a minute on either side of that and you’re on your own. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.”
Much like a samurai, he earns a living being hired for his skills. He never deviates from his code of ethics. He swears to protect the ones he loves and is willing to die for that promise.
Gosling’s character in Drive is always present and in the moment. Not thinking of the future or past or the consequences of his actions, he simply reacts in accordance to the way that is natural to him.
He has a quiet calm mixed with a sociopathic quality and a singular focus on completing the task at hand.
The violence in the movie is explosive and almost always completely unexpected. This is how sword work should be done. Calm, relaxed and subtle but perfectly timed to give your opponent a sense of security but never revealing or telegraphing your next movement or true intent.
The scorpion and the frog:
I have always been fascinated by the timeless parable of the scorpion and the frog and driver makes reference to it at the end of the film and also it is also personified in the embroidered scorpion on the back of his jacket.
It’s a short yet powerful warning about the often immutable nature of certain beings. In this case, the deadly and incontrovertible nature of evil.
As the story goes, a scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a body of water, since the scorpion cannot swim. The frog then rightly asserts that doing so would put its life at great risk, as the scorpion is known to lethally sting other creatures, sometimes without provocation.
To counter the frog’s argument, the scorpion insists that by stinging it, both of them would drown – therefore, logic would dictate that harming the frog would be definitively self-damaging and counterintuitive.
Satisfied with the scorpion’s reasoning, the frog agrees to the tenuous proposition.
As the two reach the mid-point of their journey across the water, the scorpion reneges on its promise, and indeed stings the trusting frog, resulting in their mutual demise.
After the scorpion injects the frog with its venom, the frog asks it why.
The scorpion famously replies: “Because it’s my nature.”
The original warning to the Frog was turned into a lesson for the Scorpion: Do not expose your true nature, and others will always underestimate your capabilities.