(Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: A superior thriller propelled by an intense, existential, brooding style, 'Drive' recalls 70s/80s golden age of violent crime pictures.
'Drive' isn't for everybody. It's a film that strips away so much of the fat that comes with Hollywood studio pictures, taking with it so much of the muscle that comes with action thrillers, to leave just the bare bones.
The comforts of a backstory or even a name for the leading character (Ryan Gosling) are gone, leaving him with nothing but his immense skill for driving. 'Driver' as he's known is a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for robbers.
We get the feeling that like Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver', he doesn't need this extra cash but feels compelled to sell his free time to the city that engulfs him and his acquaintances. He offers them a five minute window – either side and they're on their own.
He's an absolute professional whose quiet, rigid, samurai-esque discipline is about to get shook up after his mechanic boss (Bryan Cranston) gets him involved with a few mobsters (Ron Perlman and an unexpectedly ferocious Albert Brooks) just as he begins to fall for a neighbour (Carey Mulligan) whose husband has just come out of prison and is also caught up with the mob.
Suddenly there are too many obstacles on the road ahead for the driver to process at once and this is where the film gets interesting: he starts to crack. Not melodramatically – Gosling is too under-the-radar for such a song and dance, as is the film's director Nicolas Winding Refn ('Bronson') – but with incredible intensity. Once robot like, he begins to sweat and shake. His violent defences appear to be almost psychotic in brutality as the film takes a tonal shift from expansive 'To Live and Die in LA' gloss to 'Kiss Me Deadly' style hard boiled noir, drenching the glacial set-ups with gore and grit. Are we supposed to like this character? Can we help but follow him into oblivion? Could Refn and Gosling be the new Scorsese and De Niro?
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