Movie review: ‘Drive’

Drive pg 7

RYAN GOSLING is the driver in  the new film Drive, an eye-catching film, yet eye-closing movie.

‘Drive’ is Not just Your Usual Speeding Recklessly  Through City Streets Movie

Film Has Brazenly Shocking Scenes

By Maggie Scott

Did you know there are 100,000 streets in L.A.?  Did you know the most popular car in L.A. is the Chevy Impala?  Did you know if you use the Impala in L.A. in the commission of a crime, “no one will be looking at you,” according to “the Driver” (he’s never addressed by his name), in Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s bloody noire romance, Drive.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) also knows the codes he hears on his police band radio.  Knowing the roads, knowing the codes, knowing the car and knowing the thieves he transports are “on their own” if they aren’t in the back seat within five minutes, the Driver has managed to stay ahead of the law.  By day, he’s a stunt-driver for the movies and a grease monkey at his friend Shannon’s garage.

Shannon (Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad) is working on a race car he thinks the Driver can take over the finish line first; and, he has his hand out trying to broker a deal with mobster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) to finance getting the car ready to compete.  The Driver knows Shannon is dealing with dirty money when it comes to Bernie and Bernie’s pal Nino (Ron Perlman); but he doesn’t know how fatal it can be to get crosswise of these wise guys.

Up to this point, the Driver has been one cool customer—unflappable whether rolling a car for a camera or playing hide and seek with the L.A.P.D.’s squad cars and helicopters.  Cool-—until he ignores detour signs around love.

The Driver’s down-the-apartment building-hall neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos) are riding out the last days of a prison term for Benicio’s father (Oscar Isaac); but Irene is feeling her motor shift into high gear when she’s around the Driver.

We know little but the essence of any of these characters.  When asked what he does (for a living) by Irene, our anti-hero simply says that he drives.  Cars and the speed, daring and skill it takes to race or to escape are what the Driver appears to live for.  He’s into that, and nothing more, until he falls for Irene.

When Irene’s newly-released husband tries to refuse an outstanding favor he owes, the Driver steps in and decides to get Gabriele “out for good; the debt paid.”  The debt turns out to be not only protection money, but money Nino was hiding from the “family back East.”

From a simple pawnshop heist and getaway, the good deed turns deadly; with the Driver blowing away would-be assassins and getting mired deeper and deeper in a quagmire of blood that threatens to suck down everyone the Driver cares about.

Although there is a minor amount of jaw-dropping driving on the screen, that isn’t what Refn and screenwriter Hossein Amini are into in this adaptation of the James Sallis novella.  This is more of a psychological portrait, a mood piece, with exquisitely tuned silences and atmospheric photography.  The violence is explicitly raw and gory, provoking eye-closing on more than one occasion.

Gosling’s static face, only briefly softened by tenderness, could be likened to the Terminator’s.  It’s an arresting portrait within a brazenly shocking film that resonates after the end credits.  Rated R for extreme violence, strong language, nudity.

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