By Gary Murray


Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks


Written by Hossein Amini


Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn


Running time 100 min


MPAA Rating R


Selig Film Rating Cable


Many consider the 1970’s as the best decade of cinema.  With The Godfather I and II, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, the movie houses of those glory days were full of real men being men.  It was rough and tumble world, gritty and uninviting.  The new film by Nicholas Winding Refn Drive is a serious homage to those days of cinema.


This is a character study and the character is the unnamed driver (Ryan Gosling), a would-be stunt man who is also a wheel for hire.  He will drive the getaway vehicle for a major heist, but he will not be involved in the actual robbery.  When not doing any other jobs, he works in a garage.  The garage owner sees the talent in the boy and gets a local mobster Bernie (Albert Brooks) to invest in his driving career.  Bernie has a partner Nino (Ron Perlman) who has some different ideas on how to run the business. 


Driver also has a neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) who has a young son and husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) in prison.  Then Standard gets out of the joint, he finds that he still has a debt for his prison protection.  Soon the driver is involved in helping Standard by pulling off a heist.  When the job doesn’t go as planned, the driver realizes that Irene and her young son are at risk.  The driver must do everything to save her.


The films I kept thinking about while watching Driver were Bullitt (1968) and The French Connection (1971).   All of them follow a similar path, not in terms of plot, but in terms of raw emotion.  There are so many ‘in your face’ moments in Drive, some disturbingly violent, that give the film a very well deserved R rating.  Beatings and blood are a major plot element in Drive.  Director Nicolas Winding Refn goes to a very dark place in Drive and revels in the elements. 


It seems that the last two years have been all about Ryan Gosling.  He has gone from the heartthrob from The Notebook to some serious comic turns in Lars and the Real Girl and Crazy, Stupid Love.   This is such a different, stoic role for the actor and he does it with Steve McQueen style grace.  There is such an element of ‘too cool for words’ in this portrayal that it puts him on a different level in Hollywood.  This film should get him some serious props with the action casting directors.


Carey Mulligan has been making a name for herself in different highbrow works such as Pride and Prejudice and An Education both art house favorites.  This should be her big break into mainstream entertainment.  She brings this wounded bird quality to the role,


One of the biggest surprises of Drive is the dramatic turn by Albert Brooks.  The man is best known as a writer/director of comedy (Defending your Life, Lost in America, The Muse) does a serious left turn in a highly dramatic role.  Here he is calm, cool and collected but still sinister.  He knows the rules of this world and that the driver has broken them.  It is not personal, just business.   This could be a Supporting Oscar nod for the performer. 


Those going into Drive thinking that it will be some kind of action adventure will be a bit disappointed.  It is not so much a thrill ride as it is an exploration into the inner workings of an individual who is close to the edge.  It is not for the faint of heart or those who are easily disturbed.  This film is much more in your face than expected, not the kind of film the average movie patron revels in. 








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