Movie review – Drive starring Ryan Gosling
– Shawn Conner
Drive shows its true colours fairly early on. But for awhile the new Ryan Gosling vehicle (pardon the pun) seems like it might be going somewhere new, or at least, not well-travelled.
The first warning sign is a sappy musical interlude that doesn’t jibe at all with the movie’s ’80s crime thriller vibe. Perhaps it’s meant ironically; but then comes a second sappy musical interlude, and then the movie just completely falls apart in the third act.
There is no greater evidence for this then that, when Gosling’s character finally confronts one of the movie’s chief baddies, Ron Perlman, you just don’t care what happens to either of them. By this time your brain has checked out; you are probably thinking about checking your email or asking yourself why didn’t you see that new Sarah Jessica Parker movie.
It’s a pity, because Drive and its director, Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising, Bronson) do get some things right. At its best, the screenplay – based on a book by James Sallis – is full of novelistic detail (one character’s name is Standard) and serviceable plot twists. Blessedly, Drive respects its source, or at least its characters, enough not to give us any tedious back-story – all we find out about Gosling’s driver is that he showed up “six years ago” looking for work at a shop run by Shannon (Bryan Cranston). What was Gosling’s driver previous – a mercenary? a cop? Ghost Rider?
Speaking of which, Gosling plays our mystery man as a taciturn tough guy, from a long line of taciturn tough guys, at least until he turns into Nicolas Cage. It’s actually at that point in the movie, when the bodies start piling up but the LAPD apparently has the week off (no bodies are ever disposed of; they’re just left in elevators and hotel rooms), that Drive makes a soft right from plausible and intriguing to Gosling wearing a weird mask and staring through the window of a pizza joint. Up until then I was perfectly happy to buy the character of the nameless “Driver”, who works as a stunt driver but moonlights as a getaway-car wheel-man for thousands of dollars, yet chooses to live in a squalid L.A. apartment for no other reason than to put him closer to a single mom (Carey Mulligan) whose husband is in the slammer
Still, Drive is tough-minded and serious in way that recalls to Michael Mann’s Thief (down to the florescent ’80s titles), which isn’t bad as far as inspiration goes. And it’s just smart enough to be the kind of movie you might get wrapped up in late one night while channel-surfing, especially if you come across one of the few scenes with Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks. And there’s the bonus of Albert Brooks as a gangster; the comedian/director/Simpsons voice actor even makes it work, which confirms that somewhere in Drive is a much better movie that just didn’t get make it out of the shop.