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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Stuck in neutral."
2 stars

If you liked "Heat," Michael Mann’s 1995 study of cops and robbers, you’ll probably like "Drive." If, like me, you found "Heat" an overrated, lugubrious piece of shit, that may dictate how you feel about "Drive," which is at least shorter.

Ryan Gosling is an unnamed driver, who performs auto stunts for movies (the film is set in Los Angeles). On the side, he’s a getaway driver for robbers. Gosling, a fine actor, goes minimalist here; he stares, occasionally smiles, says very little. When the driver has to be menacing, he locks eyes with someone and says “How about this,” followed by some threat of violence, and sealed with “Do you understand?” We understand. But there’s not much else to understand about him. He drives. He does bad things. Love makes him want to do good things. He’s so far into dead-cool archetype he’s practically comatose.

Drive is the sort of artsy non-thriller that inspires many critics, largely male, to throw around words like “existential” and drop references to the film’s closest ancestors, Bullitt and The Driver, both of which actually thrilled. For a while, we take some pleasure, as always, in watching someone do something well. The first getaway is immaculately staged, depending less on speed than on sly circumvention. At the end of it, the driver stops in the car park of a sports arena, with the robbers still in the back seat, and gets out and vanishes into the night, walking nimbly around a cop or two. He doesn’t seem to care how the robbers are going to get home with the cops around, and neither does the movie; we assume it’s part of the plan, but the plan is never imparted to us. Later, the driver notices that a neighbor woman he has his eye on (Carey Mulligan) is having car trouble in a supermarket parking lot. We cut to the driver helping her and her young son carry her groceries into her apartment. Did he fix the car? Did he give them a lift home? Later we learn that the car, unfixed, winds up at the same garage he works at, but this sort of confusing transition is typical of this stoic movie.

The driver — to gloss over some plot to avoid spoilers — encounters a serious amount of money. Albert Brooks, playing a former movie producer turned mobster, wants it back. This casting seems terrific, and Brooks’ decision to play the villain more as a former movie producer than as a mobster is sound, but his performance yields neither laughs (which aren’t intended here anyway) nor menace. His gory use of sharp objects at several points in the film lacks credibility; it’s stunt casting, more enjoyable in theory than in practice. This is also true of Christina Hendricks as a heist accomplice, who does as little as the driver speaks. Meanwhile, what passes for the plot is shakily propelled by the driver’s fondness for the neighbor woman and her son. When her husband (Oscar Isaac) returns home from prison, the driver’s fondness extends to him, too, with less than salutary results.

Drive tries very hard to be cool, but undermines this goal regularly with songs on the soundtrack that seem to have escaped from some I Love the ’80s hell. One of them, at the end, repeats over and over, “A real hero, and a real human being. A real hero, and a real human being,” which is either ironic or a rather desperate way of telling us how to feel about the man we’ve spent 100 minutes staring at while he stares at everyone else. And they stare back. Occasionally a few words are said, and then disappear into the stylish L.A. malaise. A man is threatened with a hammer and bullet in a room full of strippers, who meet the spectacle with glazed, frozen expressions. Another man’s head is stomped to pulp on an elevator floor, to the natural shock and revulsion of nobody else in the elevator, not even an onlooker who isn’t all that conversant with brain-spattering violence. A young boy has little or no reaction to his father being beaten up. Drive is full of this sort of hip emptiness, this void of emotion onto which many critics seem ready to project all manners of depth and meaning.

It is the autumn’s first golden boy after a summer of lightweight superhero fare, but is truly no richer in thought or spirit than the shallowest comic-book flick.

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originally posted: 09/18/11 10:10:42
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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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