every once in a while you’re caught off guard by a film in the most peculiar way. i went into drive, the fantastic film from danish director nicolas winding refn, expecting an action packed ride complete with car crashes, love scenes and expert seriousness from star ryan gosling. what i got instead was a throwback to cult movie sickness, chock full of gratuitous violence. i found a story with tremendous backbone leaving me with the feeling that i’d seen something odd, superbly well done and worth being talked about.
this film is all about purpose. drive is shown through the lens of an unnamed character known simply as driver. a hollywood stunt driver by day and contract wheelman by night, driver is driven by purpose. he’s good at one thing, and it takes only seconds before the audience recognizes what driver has always known…he can get you where you need to go, no guns, no idle conversation, just one hand on the stick and the other on wheel.
the plot twists and turns in all the right places, and rather than reveal too much, i’ll say only that driver is involved in a heist gone wrong and the rest, well…it’s movie magic. the violence is heavy and graphic, the music is scored beautifully by cliff martinez and the screenplay adapted from a 2005 novel by james sallis is spot on. there’s heart here, if you’re willing to respect the film enough to find it. gosling is rock solid as driver, a role that’s lacking dialogue yet created to be as challenging as any character he’s tackled. the most amazing thing about gosling’s driver is his split personality. he’s torn between the driver taking his stranded neighbor home and the driver that’s forced to handle his foes armed with nothing but a toothpick clenched between his teeth a hammer in his hand. there’s a daring sensitivity inside driver, but his enemies won’t relent enough to let him truly show it.
albert brooks and ron pearlman shine as villians aimed at destroying the driver. they sizzle on-screen, but it’s gosling that steals the show. the throwback crime-noir vibe here is comforting in a flatout unsettling way. the movie thrives on the glimmer and sheer cool crafted gorgeously by refn. it’s been a while since i’ve had this much fun at the movies. spend the eleven bucks and buckle up. but approach this film like you would a tarantino mind-screw. don’t flinch at the blood, instead, embrace the film for what it is…art in the most honest sense of the word.