If you go into the movie Drive expecting a Jason Statham, Nicolas Cage, Sly Stallone or Vin Diesel standard action flick, then you’ve come to the wrong movie. Yes, Drive (starring indie darling Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) is an action flick—but only sort of. The film opens with a tense and exciting getaway chase sequence, but don’t expect such fast-paced action throughout. With irrepressible violence, character study and some action, this flick is difficult to categorize. It’s more of an art-house, romanticized action-thriller, infused with neo-noir pulp crime from filmmakers the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Brad Anderson and Michael Mann.
With fury, Drive tells the story of an unnamed mechanic-slash-stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who also happens to moonlight as a getaway driver. Our anti-hero, Driver, becomes involved with his next-door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). As Driver is beginning to develop feelings for Irene, her husband (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison and learns that a hit has been taken out on him for an unpaid debt. Driver
then decides to risk everything in a mission to protect Irene from a dangerous underworld out to seek revenge upon them.
Drive is a highly stylized pulp noir film that sucks the viewer in from the first mesmerizing frame. The opening sequence is one of the best in recent history of this sub-genre. It has you on the edge the entire time, while the '80s-inspired synth-pop soundtrack thumps effectively in the background. The pace may seem a bit unsettling for those expecting a more traditional slam-bang action flick, but this isn’t you’re typical Hollywood action piece. This is actual art.
Gosling has always had a quiet strength about himself as an actor and easily commands the screen regardless of the role. Here, he oozes confidence and self-assured charm throughout Drive, though speaking little and remaining mysterious throughout the film. We never doubt his fundamentally good nature, even though we see reason to believe on many occasions that he has some deep-seated demons beneath the surface. (That being said, take this R rating seriously; the violence of Drive is upfront and uncensored, and can’t be recommended for everyone.)
The great supporting cast are both strong and surprising, especially Albert Brooks, as a mob boss whose “softer” demeanor masks a far more sinister person. However, make no mistake: this is really a showcase for Gosling. He inhabits the character completely, making what could have been a straightforward typical tough-guy into a more complex and paradoxical character. Driver is self-confident and strong, yet clearly lonely and filled with a certain peculiar stillness, almost reminiscent of Mad Max or Travis Bickle.
This film is visually and aurally edgy while remaining posh and gorgeous. Director Nicolas Winding Refn and his cinematographer are able to instill the underground L.A. streets with a sense of life and make it more than just a backdrop for the plot. The camera angles and color blend into a hypnotic and dream-like landscape that puts you right in Driver’s seat, without letting go.
Drive isn’t a one-size-fits-all film. However, if you’re looking for a beautifully crafted and well-acted unique thriller, then Drive is the right vehicle for you.
Adam Chaffin is a young film-maker, actor and radio show host currently living in DC metro area. Follow www.twitter.com/virginiarunning.