**** (out of 5)
September 16, 2011
Ryan Gosling as DRIVER
Carey Mulligan as IRENE
Bryan Cranston as SHANNON
Albert Brooks as BERNIE ROSE
Oscar Isaac as STANDARD
Christina Hendricks as BLANCHE
Ron Perlman as NINO
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In some ways, writing reviews is very therapeutic. It allows me to confront aspects of my personality and examine certain feelings, bringing them into the open. It’s no wonder, then, that I start so many of my reviews with a confession. And this week’s confessions that I cannot stand Ryan Gosling as an actor.
Whether he’s starring in a beloved romance like “The Notebook,” an indie darling like “Blue Valentine” or a routine mainstream flick like “Fracture,” I just have never liked him. He’s a one-note actor that I never have enjoyed.
But damn, if I didn’t think he was fantastic in “Drive.” And it’s not just Gosling. It’s the whole cast – from Carey Mulligan as the love interest to Albert Brooks playing a simultaneously ridiculous and chilling villain. “Drive” is an expertly cast movie that doesn’t allow anyone to fall too far into caricature, but also doesn’t get too high on its own smartness.
The story follows a man who drives for a living (Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver for any crime imaginable. He starts to fall for the pretty girl next door, but then her husband gets out of jail. When the husband’s old partners show up to get money from him, threatening his family, the driver takes matters into his own hands.
The story is nothing terribly new, but it’s presented in a fantastic way, making it one of the most smartly directed movies I’ve seen this year. The element of the film that stood out most to me was the pacing, which really felt like it does to drive through a big city. There are moments that seem to be at a dead stop. There are other moments where you jump forward only to stall out again. Then there are moments where the film suddenly puts the pedal to the metal and roars forward, only to take an unexpected turn to avoid a jam.
Another aspect I loved about this film was how it throws some curve balls at you, baiting and switching your expectations. It’s an extremely hard film to predict, and that takes a lot to do to me, considering I’ve seen just about every twist you can throw at an audience. You never quite know where this movie is going, but it’s tons of fun to find your way there.
In addition to the cast, the acting and the brilliant directing, “Drive” features an amazingly unique soundtrack that has the appearance of being overdone. This is another way the film plays with expectations. From the opening titles, which has a chintzy 80s tone to it to the choice of background music, it gives the feeling of being retro without becoming an overblown tribute to any timeframe in order to sell soundtracks and iTunes downloads.
Many people – especially those who just saw the trailer of the film and haven’t bothered to actually watch the other 98 minutes of the movie – have likened this to the “Transporter” movies with Jason Statham. And yes, it does have a similar log line, but it’s a far better and far more unique presentation. If “Drive” is “The Transporter,” then “The Dark Knight” is Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin.”
“Drive” may not be a movie that will completely click with the mainstream, but if you’re fortunate enough to check it out in the theaters, you won’t be disappointed.