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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.18%
Average: 4.41%
Pretty Bad: 25%
Total Crap: 5.88%

6 reviews, 32 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Can Words Describe Its Greatness?"
5 stars

Just as a single word of the title is all that is necessary to sell you on the lead character of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, there is one to accurately describe the film itself too. It is a word occasionally used in ads and probably pops up more in reviews than even the critics themselves can fully justify. The word is hypnotic. In the way that a great piece of music can pull you into another time or the calm serenity of an isolated nature spot or when vampires lure their victims into a trance, Drive is all those things combined with the necessary jolts to bring you right back to reality and then back to a numbing gaze. Drive is quite simply the best film that Michael Mann never made in the period where Thief, Manhunter and the scores of Giorgio Moroder and Tangerine Dream secreted off the screen and into our veins. And it is time to tap them up again for this experience only to leave as if they had been opened up right into your popcorn.

Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed loner who arrived into Los Angeles six years prior with a skill for one thing - cars. He can fix them, as he has gotten a job in the garage of Shannon (Bryan Cranston). He also works part time as a Hollywood stunt driver, loned out by Shannon on local film sets, and they even dream of his potential as a professional on the race circuit. Shannon's relationship with a former Hollywood producer turned loan shark, Bernie (Albert Brooks) and his loudmouth partner, Nino (Ron Perlman), may be strong enough to make that happen. On occasion at night though, "The Driver" is setup as a getaway chauffeur for criminal activities. You have five minutes to pull your job and then he's gone. As we see in the bravura opening sequence, he's got the gloves, the timing and knows when to cut his losses.

He's not flashy with the money he makes and lives in an average apartment next door to Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. Through chance they begin to see more and more of one another and though the driver is a man of few words, we can tell without hesitation that he really likes her. She is spoken for, however, by Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac), a convict on the verge of release. Whether Standard's big speech about second chances is a put-on or not, the past always seems to catch up with criminals. Especially if they were in business with other criminals. The Driver, determined to keep Irene and her boy safe, agrees to intervene only to see a 360 take on a whole more dangerous meaning.

That is probably more than you should already know going into Drive (the trailer gives away even more), although one can expect that our anti-hero's lifestyle is not headed for a neat and tidy sunset. Whatever predictability factor may ride sidecar with the film's genre trappings is lost within that overwhelming modicum of hypnosis that director Refn and, just as importantly, his cast bring to the story. It is the absolute difference between your average heist thrillers and an anvil of epic proportions crashing down on garbage like Takers and the Fast and Furious/Transporter series. At the same time, while the title eludes the audience is in for a non-stop chase picture in the realm of Gone In 60 Seconds or Ronin, it is just as much a play on words as it is comparable in many people's minds to Walter Hill's 1978 film, The Driver, also featuring an unnamed protagonist (and the whole cast of characters actually.) Drive does feature a pair of spectacular chases - one low-key, the other high-voltage - but it is likely not what you will walk away on the top of your list of remembrance.

The sweet is never as sweet without the sour they say, though in Drive’s case the sour is never as sour without the sweet. How else to describe Gosling’s character and the performance which embodies the spirit of the film itself. Not many actors of Gosling’s generation have been able to hold the screen by working in silences. His career has been perpetuated by characters that grasp onto and sometimes explode into emotional violence. Charming and scary all at once, but rarely playing an outright villain, Gosling may never have seemed like the man’s man moviestar, though Drive puts him right at the top. His work in here is the toughness of Steve McQueen, the commitment of Christian Bale and the puppy dog loyalty that have had scores of women fall in love with Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Paul Newman over the years. Watch him contrast his protective instincts in the early scenes with Carey Mulligan and then how he handles Christina Hendricks’ trashy criminal in a hotel room later. How many actors can exude so much authority with a single finger?

Refn is leading the audience into very dangerous territory and these tranquil moments at the beginning with very little dialogue lure us in right along with The Driver. Even within his professionalism and the choices he makes in the second half we are aware that a much worse choice lies ahead. Make no mistake that this is a film that does not pull its punches when it comes to violence. Needless to say we may have been hesitant to sit through Defending Your Life if Albert Brooks’ Bernie was the focus of the daily clips he was being judged on. No matter how immune you are to cinema violence there are moments within Drive that will release gasps so loud that when you are done checking yourself to make sure you are not bleeding, a look around the room may reveal that you were the one who gasped loudest. Refn is not merely producing cheap shocks for a cathartic piece of entertainment for there is an equal balance between rage and mercy in the bloodletting that occurs. While his mapping of the ‘80s neon tech soundtrack and Michael Mann’s music-infused moments of introspection may seem like cheap theatrics, Refn has made his presence known as a major talent on the horizon.

Drive is a film that haunted my dreams the night I saw it. Specifically to the nagging thought that one character's motivations may not have been as nearly clean-cut and passive as they might have appeared. It may haunt yours for different reasons and we can go all day coming up with words to describe how fantastic this film is. You may be thinking of ones like bullet, elevator, handshake and trunk. Not directly descriptive of course unless you have seen the movie. Hopefully the 1124 words that you have just read have hypnotized you into seeing it immediately.

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originally posted: 09/16/11 03:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2011 Festival de Cannes series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell solid imho 4 stars
11/23/13 Lord It's overrated 1 stars
3/28/13 Eggy Joe Loved the feel, look and Gosling's character 5 stars
8/05/12 Matthew Thompson Dalldorf Ryan Gosling reminded me of Paul Newman in 'Cool Hand Luke' 5 stars
8/01/12 TreeTiger Rob Gonsalves' review nails it perfectly. 2 stars
7/18/12 John P. Eastwood's silent gunslinger transformed into a noir-ish avenger 4 stars
5/30/12 Matt For the love of God, I don't get why people like this movie. TERRIBLE. 2 stars
5/25/12 Louise Loved it! And Ryan is a sight for sore eyes! 5 stars
3/21/12 Luis I thought it was pretty good 4 stars
3/11/12 g. Fantastic. 5 stars
2/09/12 Yep Solid, interesting and competant 4 stars
2/06/12 Monday Morning Slow, crude, crappy soundtrack, depressing, boring, 90% = waste of time. 2 stars
1/23/12 action movie fan heat and reservoir dogs top this feeble copy attempt hands down=dull film 2 stars
11/16/11 Steve Capell Fast watch through cars and sin! 4 stars
10/26/11 ashley rexrode boring movie. dont waste your money 1 stars
10/15/11 Roger Loved It! 5 stars
10/13/11 mr.mike Is "No bad". 4 stars
10/11/11 lin drive = shane in essence. how's that not rich in thought ? 4 stars
10/11/11 JP Ward Interesting but tonally conflicting. Sunny pop undermines dark ambience. 3 stars
10/08/11 Langano Very well done. Great mood & style. 4 stars
10/03/11 Kim Kelly Takes its time, can be intense, not for everyone.. Enjoyed Gosling as usual 3 stars
9/26/11 asg Great restraint from a damaged soul by Gosling 4 stars
9/22/11 HighNoon Did the critic really see this movie? Finally a real movie instead of mindless action film 5 stars
9/21/11 laloca lack of dialogue != deep and meaningful. a pile of emo crap. 2 stars
9/21/11 Moonshot Lotta good/lotta bad - the songs ruined it - been better off w/ more silence 3 stars
9/21/11 Elspeth R (on Wordpress) Hoorah, further kindred spirits! Why is silence and violence considered cool? 1 stars
9/20/11 HighNoon Just the best movie of 2011 5 stars
9/20/11 Goon Crappy hipster chic acted out by robots 1 stars
9/18/11 Darkstar Unbelieveably awesome movie. 10+/10 5 stars
9/17/11 John G Well-done - but, NO MICHAEL MANN IS REFN - "HEAT" "COLLATERAL" for noir defined nuff said 4 stars
9/17/11 tyler perry's tyler perrier yo peter, you just called drive "dream" in the last para. 5 stars
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  16-Sep-2011 (R)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2012


  DVD: 31-Jan-2012

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