Written by John Delia
Just to make sure that the trailer for Drive doesn’t give you the wrong idea, NO, this is not a Jason Statham movie in the vein of the adrenaline pumping Transporter series. Ryan Gosling holds his own in this rough surrealistic drama that inserts all the thrills shown in the preview and more. If you like looking into the mind of a tough loner who is on a road to a life full of angst, then take a ride to Drive.
The story involves stunt driving and getaway wheelman Driver (Ryan Gosling) a loner running from life and heading for trouble. His mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston) has never seen a more remarkable stuntman who has no fear and spits in the eye of danger. Without a care in the world except his next meal and a place to sleep, Driver lives from day to day. At a local grocery store he sees Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young attractive woman with a child in tow. In a quirk of fate he finds that she has moved into the apartment next door. When his mind starts to imagine a life of possibilities with her, shifting gears becomes a risky challenge.
Ryan Gosling plays characters that take on a lot of psychological trauma (Blue Valentine, Fracture, All Good Things), and in Drive he ups the ante playing Driver, a very moody person who takes chances getting his kicks by cheating death at every traffic light and stunt car crash without a care. Helping the mood, director Nicholas Winding Refn uses the camera with long close-ups of the brooding man, creating a surrealistic mood that projects Driver’s callous nature. Then as the story turns 180 degrees, Refn’s Driver starts to change his outlook on life, and Gosling’s there to create another side of his character.
In support both Cranston and Mulligan do a terrific job of being the catalysts to Driver’s actions and reactions. As the stunt coordinator for Driver, Shannon becomes his pillar, saving him from those who take aim. When Driver finds himself in danger, it’s Cranston’s character that comes through, until it’s too late.
Mulligan plays Irene, the one beautiful flower in Driver’s dark life. Her ability to project innocence in the midst of her own life turmoil shows big on the screen. With her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) she tries to show Driver that there’s more to life, even when things seem impossible. Refn turns Leos and Mulligan into the jewels that Driver wants even if he has to give them up so they can find happiness.
Talented comedian Albert Brooks puts on his dramatic face playing Bernie Rose, a Jewish drug contractor who puts danger in Driver’s way. A brutal role for a ‘‘funny” man, but he handles it with little difficulty.
There is a negative here, but it’s a double edge sword. Refn spools out his story slowly, taking a lot of liberty with the camera in close-ups that made my mind wander at times, long shots that seem to take forever to complete, and dialog delivery with multi-beat hesitation in conversations. Those filmgoers, however, that like the mystery, psychological value and suspense that this sometimes brings, with accept it as part of the story.
The film is rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity. This is a film that should only be seen by the mature as the violent beating gets so unbearable I even turned away at times.
FINAL ANALYSIS: An excellent drama with a sharp edge.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, and Christina Hendricks
Directed by: Nicholas Winding Refn
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity
Genre: Crime, Action, Drama
Running Time: 1hr 40min
Opening Date: September 16th, 2011
Distributed by: FilmDistrict