Albert Brooks should have received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Bernie Rose in Drive. (Well since it might be a bit before I get a chance to see Branagh, I am reviewing him here anyway)
Albert Brooks really should have gone down with the likes of Robert Montgomery for portraying the most different of character between his first and second nomination, since his great performance as Aaron Altman in Broadcast News has basically nothing in common with his performance here. Bernie and Aaron basically have nothing in common other than the fact that it shows off that Albert Brooks is an incredible actor if given the chance to be. From beginning to end Brooks gives a completely uncompromising performance as Bernie Rose that proves just what he is capable of.
Albert Brooks makes the absolute most out of Bernie Rose who is a mobster who is not exactly on the top of the heap, but still he does not answer to anyone. He has his specific place, and specific spot in the crime world that he is relatively happy in. Brooks is terrific from his first moment on screen as he establishes Bernie. In his earlier scenes he does not seem to be an entirely unreasonable man, there is always the sense that you definitely do not want to tick him off, but there is a certain degree of a strange sort of friendliness.
Brooks has a perfect matter of fact quality in Bernie that he uses effectively throughout. Brooks shows that is almost is that Bernie reached this place in his life by cutting through the crap and always saying things are exactly how sees them. There is a dominance Brooks has that suggests exactly where Bernie came from, and how he became exactly the way he is now. Brooks is excellent though because he never shows Bernie as a bad man exactly rather a man firstly, who does bad things only when he is forced to.
When Bernie's violent side finally appears Brooks is terrifying aided greatly by the fact that he didn't overplay Rose's negative side early on. Brooks makes Bernie moments of violence especially disconcerting and intense because of the way he brings it out. What I love about his two killing scene is how he actually shows a great deal of who Bernie is when he does this. Brooks does not simple kill them as a completely dissociative reaction that he has no emotional attachment to.
Brooks shows that Rose kills because of business entirely, but it is a very personal thing when he does it. The first person he kills he clearly has not respect for in the least, and does basically consider it pretty much taking out the trash, yet Brooks still shows Bernie disgusted to so almost blaming the his cause for disgust on the man he is killing. Brooks creates a fascinating killer who doesn't like to do it, but will do it when he needs to even though he doesn't mind blaming the victim for why he must do it.
The second person he kills though Brooks again shows a very different side of Rose, although it still reflects the idea that Rose only does it when needed and takes no joy in it. The second person he kills though is different because he actually likes the man, and really never had any desire to murder the man. It is of course a brutal violent moment, but Brooks inserts a degree of humanity in the scene. During the killing and afterwards he actually makes it sad necessity for Bernie that he most certainly feels very regretful and guilty of. The killing itself even Brooks portrays it as Bernie trying to kill a man in the nicest way he knows how.
Brooks is absolutely brilliant in his ability to suggest Bernie's small humane side while still staying absolutely imposing as well. Brooks is amazing in his final threatening speech to the Driver. It actually is very easy to overact a scene like this, or simply seem just nonthreatening as well, but Brooks is outstanding. Albert Brooks doesn't overplay the scene but lays it out on the line in the scene in a realistic and fierce manner. It is an incredible performance that turns what could have been a forgettable part, into a powerful memorable villain.