In the opening sequence of this crime drama, Ryan Gosling is introduced as a getaway driver for two faceless thugs stealing money from some unknown destination. ¬†The scene builds to what will be an inevitable chase scene between them and the cops. ¬†Tension mounts as a creeping Cat & Mouse game plays out with them slowly trying to sneak down the streets of LA without being spotted. ¬†Surely, this car chase scene is gonna be epic and kick this movie off in full throttle. ¬†But no. ¬†It never comes. ¬†In fact, the sequence involves slow driving, methodical evasion moves and an ¬†anticlimactic getaway. ¬†Never once is any of it boring though. ¬†And this sets the tone of Drive.
Drive is a gritty crime movie that takes place in LA but we're not sure when due to a misleading soundtrack choice of heart-pounding synth pop and cliche costume choices. ¬†These were deliberate choice by director Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed the brilliant Bronson in 2008, which introduced the world to Tom Hardy (Warrior, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises). ¬†I'm sure he also had a call in the promotion of this film that uses hot pink '80s style font for all the advertising and credits. ¬†Coupled with the heavy female soundtrack and Gosling's adorable manboy face, you'd expect this to be a film about crime that's made for women. ¬†A warning to all lovers of The Notebook, this is not the Ryan you're expecting.
Drive is one of the most violent movies I've ever seen. ¬†Sure there are movies like Saving Private Ryan or Nightmare on Elm Street that are officially more violent, but Drive is filled with unexpected brutality. ¬†This is NOT a film for the slight of heart. ¬†Some of the scenes generated audible gasps from the audience and people turned away from the screen. ¬†In some cases, people got up and left the theater. ¬†Yes, some of this violence is gratuitous but never once does it not fit the tone of the film. ¬†It's all done for a reason and in some cases even meant to be playful.
The entire cast is brilliant. ¬†It also features Carey Mulligan (An Education), Ron Pearlman (Hellboy), Bryan Cranston (AMC's Breaking Bad) and comedian Albert Brooks (Mother, Finding Nemo) as an Oscar-caliber villain. ¬†He is a perfect baddie and nobody would EVER have guessed that. ¬†It's that kind of risky choices that makes Drive and Refn's vision that deserves top notice from people.
All that being said, this is not a movie for mass audiences. ¬†It has a pace that is slow and deliberate. ¬†The film takes itself more seriously than it deserves but that can be overlooked. ¬†Gosling's character, who is only listed in the credits as "Driver," is mysterious and a man of few words. ¬†He says very little and Refn allows moments of the film to go on in complete silence for agonizing amounts of time. ¬†However, after a full viewing, I'm sure those pregnant pauses are far more important and justified on a second enjoyment.
There are few movies that, after I see them, I look forward to seeing again as soon as possible;¬†Drive is one of them though. ¬†It's not a classic story of a criminal with a heart of gold. ¬†It's a story of a criminal who tries to do the right thing after falling in love, but displays acts of violence that suggests an almost psychotic and homicidal maniac past. ¬†Gosling does a stellar job showing that without ever saying a word. ¬†But again, don't go into Drive with any pretense. ¬†It's not Fast and the Furious filled with amazing car chase scenes! ¬†It's not The Notebook filled with passionate love scenes. ¬†It's brutal, weird and inspired! ¬†It's one of those movies that makes you think you just saw something important...even if you're not 100% sure what you just saw.
Drive ¬†(Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A