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Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” feels like a throwback to the 1980s. But don’t expect Romy and Michelle to pop up, rather a mood and tone is created here that longs for “Manhunter”’s Will Graham to make an appearance, as Refn piles on gobs of visual style that would make Michael Mann proud.
Ryan Gosling, always a good choice to cast as whoever, plays, simply, “Driver”. He says little, is little affected, and is capable of bouts of violence that should earn him the word “Taxi” in front of his name. He’s a motion picture stunt driver by day, getaway car driver-for-hire by night. He seems to lack the ability to have successful human contact with anyone until he gets to know his neighbor Irene, played by Carey Mulligan. Irene’s husband draws Gosling into a driving job that goes very, very wrong, putting everyone in danger, which is just how you want things in a movie like this.
Refn directs with the confidence of someone who’s directed twice as many movies as he has. This is his first American story, and from the “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” font that graces the poster to the Tangerine Dream-esque score by Cliff Martinez to the excellent nighttime driving photography, Refn must have watched a lot of Crockett and Tubbs in his youth.
But unlike an ‘80s TV show, “Drive” is prone to outrageous violence that stops the viewer in his tracks. I went with it. I thought the film worked very methodically to draw me in, using long takes and slow, deliberate acting. So when things sped up, I was, no pun intended, along for the ride.
Many people in the audience I saw “Drive” with were visibly and audibly shocked by the violence in this movie, but don’t let any stories about that kind of reaction deter you. These wimps are the same people who will tell you that “Goodfellas”, a wildly violent film, is one of the greatest movies of all time. So don’t come to “Drive” all uptight, just saying.
Mulligan is very good as Irene, continuing to pull a nice run of quality performances out of nowhere. Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman deliver in stock delinquent roles, but Albert Brooks really impresses as a brazen crime boss whose motive is never surprising, but his delivery (and Brooks’ playing against type) always is.
The score is much better than the song collection here. Unfortunately, my least favorite song on the soundtrack is used multiple times. Also, I wasn’t completely satisfied at the end, ending up as coolly detached as these characters who exude mood more than emotion. But there is genuine tension in this film, and the assertiveness in which Refn delivers this style piece is hypnotic.
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Run Time: 100 Minutes
Company: Bold Films