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Drive

Drive

What She said:

She

Honestly, I’m not even sure where to start.  Drive is a bit of sensory overload.  Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, it escalates to an even higher level. 

So, before I get too deep in my critique, let me give you some background on the plot.  Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed “driver.”  You may not even notice it, but a lot goes unsaid about his character, more than just the name.  We’re presented with this notion that he’s a part-time mechanic, part-time stunt driver for movies, and part-time getaway driver for criminals.  The latter is a completely hands-off contractual type gig, where he doesn’t ask questions, but rather just helps felons in the act flee the scene of the crime.  There’s some talk of his career expanding to include some form of race car driving, but the idea is derailed when Gosling’s character starts to fall for a girl living down the hall from him.  It’s too late before he realizes that she’s got some serious baggage.  Seemingly against his will, Driver is dragged into a thrilling cat and mouse game of kill or be killed, and we, the viewers begin to learn a lot about his nature and background.

When this movie first started out, I was a bit surprised.  Gosling’s character seemed a bit doofy.  I mean, yeah, he was a good driver, but he hardly said a word, especially when he got those puppy dog eyes for his neighbor (played by Carey Mulligan).  I thought he was a major creeper who had zero personality.  As the movie evolved and the killing began (and yes, there’s plenty of killing) I started to realize that Driver isn’t so much a creeper as he is a total psycho.  You can’t help but root for him in one sense, but at the same time you have to acknowledge that he’s completely unhinged and has serious, and I mean serious, issues.  Sure, he’s good to the people he likes.  But for anyone who double crosses him, you’re toast. 

In some sense, Drive is a love story.  It seems so front and central to the early part of the film.  But it also stands as a true thriller, one that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wonder what will happen next.  Gosling is pretty solid in his role.  Bryan Cranston also shines as Driver’s main employer, and I enjoyed Albert Brooks as an investor who can quickly turn into a cold-blooded and very calculated killer.  Ron Perlman, while entertaining, seemed a bit over-the-top in his role.  You’ll see what I mean.    

I very much enjoyed this film, which makes me pretty sick I guess.  The violence and death scenes are graphic and dramatic.  Because of that, this movie may be off-putting to some.  However, if you can handle the gore, Drive will serve as a solid thriller.

Thumbs up.

Drive

What he said:

He

Well now that was intense, wasn’t it? I feel like I should talk to a paid professional after seeing that one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen violent content before. I religiously watch Dexter and Breaking Bad. I have also seen and enjoyed movies such as Silence of the Lambs, Goodfellas, and Casino (Nicky’s death still makes me cringe to this day).  In many ways, those other works have more instances of violence than Drive. Drive was not a nonstop gore-fest. It’s just that when it happens it happens with a vengeance.

Ryan Gosling plays a professional driver (and I mean that in more ways than one). His day job is a mechanic in a garage owned by Shannon (Bryan Cranston). Shannon also builds cars for movies and “the driver” serves as the stuntman. His real money comes in being the getaway driver for criminals doing heists. He doesn’t partake in the robberies, he just drives. He doesn’t even carry a gun. He just sits in the car and waits for the thieves to do their business and if they show up in the allotted amount of time, he drives them away to safety no questions asked.  

Shannon has bigger plans though. Recognizing the driver’s talent behind the wheel, he is hoping to turn him into a legitimate stockcar driver; so be recruits the help of local mobster Bernie Rose (played by Albert Brooks). Bernie quickly recognizes the driver’s mad skills and jumps on board with the plan and agrees to help finance Shannon’s project.

One day the driver’s neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son show up at Shannon’s garage in need of some repairs.

Drive

Shannon says they’ll have the car fixed soon and offers to have the driver give her and her son a ride home in the meantime.  Despite the fact that the driver barely talks – to the point you start to wonder if the guy is keeping bodies in his apartment – Irene takes a liking to him. They just start to explore the possibility of a relationship when her husband is released from prison.

The driver isn’t without a sense of morals though and actually backs off. He also agrees to help Standard (the husband) when he has some trouble with some local tough guys. He is a former thief who owes some people some money. They want him to do a job for them, but he refuses. The driver says that he will help Standard do this one last job.

The only problem is things go poorly and the next thing he knows people are trying to kill him left and right. They also begin to threaten Irene and her son. This is a pivotal point in the movie where we learn that that driver isn’t just some brooding and mysterious kind of fella. He minds his business most of the time, but he takes exception to the fact that these thugs are trying to kill him, Irene, and her son. Have you ever heard the saying “It’s always the quiet ones”? Well it rings true with this guy. Man-oh-man, you do not want to get on this guy’s bad side. Next thing we know Shannon, Rose, and another local mobster named Nino (Ron Perlman) become involved. The shit really hits the fan from this point out.

This is a very stylish movie. There’s all kinds of cool going on here. There’s a bit of a retro vibe with a dash of a modern crime drama along the lines of Breaking Bad. While watching, I also got this sense that I was watching Halloween; which interestingly enough the director said was one of films that inspired him. I can definitely see elements of John Carpenter’s classic horror movie in Drive. It’s got a few different styles going for it, but not in a bad way. This movie manages to successfully blend them all together quite nicely.

It’s also loaded with some top-notch performances.

Ryan Gosling’s character is intense dude. At first you think he’s just kind of quiet or shy. Then you start to think he’s a little creepy. Then you find out he may actually be psychotic. The evolution of the character’s personality unfolds quite nicely.  

Albert Books pulls of a performance I would never have thought he was capable of. I always considered him more of a comedic actor. He usually plays nervous types. But in this, he portrays a local crime boss with as much realism as I’ve ever seen.

It’s nice to see Bryan Cranston get some work too. I loved him in Malcom in the Middle, but ever since Breaking Bad, the guy has showed some serious range.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 7, 2012.

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