‘Drive’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 22nd, 2013 at 10:36 am,

Drive Review Drive Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Drive

The word “auteur” gets thrown around somewhat frivolously these days – but in the case of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, the term is a fitting one. Some movie fans have already come to revere Refn’s talent for taking intense violence and elevating it to the level of high art (see: the Pusher trilogy, Bronson, Valhalla Rising), while other moviegoers are not yet aware of the director’s talent.

Drive, Refn’s adaptation of the pulp crime novel by author James Sallis, arrives to the screen as a film that is well-acted, visually captivating, intensely thrilling, and gruesomely violent. That may seem like an odd mix of parts to have under the hood – but to Refn’s credit, Drive run as smoothly and beautifully as a high-octane sports car.

The film follows “Driver” (Ryan Gosling) a young Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as an expert getaway driver. Driver is almost robotic in his methodical approach to both crime and life, so it is a veritable Pandora’s Box when he begins to take notice of his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son Benicio. Before long, Driver finds himself breaking from his strict discipline in favor of life possibilities he never imagined. But the light of hope dims fast when Irene’s husband, Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac), returns home from prison.

Things only get darker when Standard Gabriel gets strong-armed by local mobsters into doing some dirty work. Driver, out of loyalty to Irene, breaks his own code by getting mixed up business he has no hand in – business that quickly goes sideways and places Driver, his partner Shannon (Bryan Cranston), Irene and her family, all in the crosshairs of local gangsters Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman). From there, things get bloody as Driver and the gangsters play a violent game of cat and mouse, forcing Driver to unleash a terrible side of himself that no one is prepared to face.

Drive Carey Mulligan Drive Review

Carey Mulligan in ‘Drive’

Refn creates a movie experience like none other – though that may be a drawback for some viewers. Drive is an artist’s rendition of a neo-noir flick, offering us moments of high-class visual iconography without sacrificing the dark, gritty, working-class edge that is the defining quality of Film Noir. The director also evidences a smart capability for action: Drive has three major chase sequences, and each is composed in a way that is radically different from the others – and yet, each fits perfectly with the tone of the film at that moment. Refn also handles violence in a smart and viscerally effective way, to the effect that sound, suggestion, and a bit of blood spatter feel more gut-wrenching and nauseating than full-on gore. Throw in a perfectly synched soundtrack of ’80s techno throwback tunes, and what you get it is a mismatched set of parts that only a true auteur could assemble into a smooth, roaring ride. And Refn doesn’t just manage to fit all the parts together – he waxes and polishes this film to a fine shine.

That said, mainstream movie goers should be advised: Drive is not at all the standard action/thriller you may be expecting.

For one thing, this is a film that is almost beautifully serene and quiet for a good chunk of its runtime. Driver himself says little to nothing in the way of dialogue; it takes an actor of Gosling’s caliber to convey all the thoughts and muted emotions of this tightly coiled enigmatic figure, while still making him interesting and fun to watch. Irene is also the silent type, and much of her connection to Driver has to do with the fact they can speak volumes to one another without speaking at all. Much of Mulligan and Gosling’s time onscreen together is a conversation of glances, expressions and long stares. And, while it is a testament to both actors that the chemistry is there, some viewers will be agitated by the distance at which we are kept (though, it is a direct echo of  Driver’s detached existence). On the other hand, there is little chance that even mainstream viewers won’t enjoy the scene-chewing performances of the supporting cast – specifically Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Albert Brooks (The Simpons Movie) and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy).

Cranston gets the task of playing Driver’s partner/foil, Shannon, a reckless and hapless chatterbox who is constantly trying (and failing) to strike his fortune in life. It’s a character who could’ve been as annoyingly over-the-top as Driver could’ve been frustratingly vacant, but like Gosling, Cranston is an actor at the top of his game and turns a bit character into something significant and memorable.

Drive Albert Brooks Drive Review

Albert Brooks in ‘Drive’

Perlman is used to playing big characters, and someone like Nino is admittedly a cakewalk for the actor by now, but no matter: his character is simply the foil for the real star of the show, which is Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose. Bernie and Nino are almost like the older, more serpentine version of Shannon and Driver, with Bernie possessing the same methodical methods and coiled fury as Driver himself. Brooks, a comedy icon, is playing totally against type here, and yet manages to create a villain worthy of Awards season. Many of the films’ best moments are when Bernie Rose is onscreen – and that includes moments of both humor and horror. Brooks breezes through the range of his character as if he’s been playing the bad guy forever, and is still loving it. Definitely a second-wind performance from a longtime performer.

While the resolution of the film’s crime drama narrative is somewhat foreseeable, Refn conveys it in a smart and unique way that will likely leave audiences debating and discussing their mixed interpretations. It’s an artistic finale that certainly elevates the conventions of the genre – but again, viewers looking for a conventional crime drama experience will likely be put-off by how things end. Still, this may be Refn’s best work  yet, and will earn him a few more admirers for what is going to be a fast-expanding fanbase, should he keep crafting cinematic expereiences that are this good.

If you’re still making up you mind about seeing the film, check out the Drive trailer below:

Drive will be in theaters on September 16, 2011.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

TAGS: Drive
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  1. By far the most satisfying flick I’ve seen this year. Totally refreshing to see a downbeat,intense,cool film like this especially considering how monotonous and safe the majority of releases this year have been so far. A real gem and definitely worth revisiting before dvd/releases. And the soundtrack was bliss and perfectly evokes the depth and feeling that I expected and so much more. Definitely be picking up a copy of both that and the original novel before the dvd/bluray release to get more inside Driver’s pysche. Nicholas Winding Refn’s directorial vision for future releases is one I hope doesn’t get compromised and tarnished by the hollywood machine especially with Logan’s Run now in the works with Ryan Gosling.

  2. I was so hyped to see this because it got so many positive reviews, BUT I finally got to see it and I feel like I went to a firework display and every one of them was a dud…. SPOILERS~!!!!!!!

    Violence could have been better. Ryan’s stare look more like puss in boots than a threat, I just couldn’t take it seriously. I mean even the love interest was a waste of time (doesn’t even get to second base!). Two characters could have been just one (bad-guys). The main character left me waiting, I kept thinking he’d lose it or that we’d see what made him so special but nothing really stuck, I didn’t get the mask scene either. The whole movie felt like a turd that kept feeling it was gonna come out and never does. I would love to know why people liked this film so much. I feel owed an explaination! I love movies of all kinds and this could not seem to lift off.

  3. This film was great, the retro feel, extreme violence, and artfulness was balanced so well. If Refn doesn’t get a Best Director nomination it’s a crime. For those of you who didn’t like it, I understand you didn’t like the minimal dialogue but I loved it, it made it all the more powerful when they spoke, it was one of my favorite films this year, and thats saying a lot.

  4. Didnt like it.

    it was slow and boring, any scenes of violence were overly gory and unnecessary. I loved all the actors in the movie, but the characters they played: any that were fleshed out i just didnt like, i couldnt relate to any of them. The only one i thought was a unique and likable character was Oscar Isaac and he dies early on. There was no point in Christina Hendricks character other than to give the film some more star credit, which it didnt. Ryan Goslin’s character was shady and and you can tell he’s very violent but desprately trying to hide that side of him, but i dont want to see a character like that. And the ending was terrible.

    I guess i can see why people liked it but i really found the movie disappointing

    I thought the “Transporter” series did what this movie tried to do, and did it better.

    • @shacasha

      Yea, i noticed the same thing about his jacket. The more involved he got from the world he was detached from the dirtier he got.

    • Your reading a lot into it, if you had grown up around violence and/or had a father who was violent with you, the way it appears would be totally different from your description. He reminds me of half the people I grew up with and all the adults, there is no deep thought behind them. It is primal behavior, saying “do you understand me?” means either I accept what you say as a response or I am going to hurt you or if I can; kill you. I identified with his character as an abused kid who has become a sociopath unable to experience life the way others do. Simply incapable of reacting emotionally at the right times unless it pertains to violence.

      You’re dead on the director’s intention with the jacket.

      These types of people are not “fascinating” in real life; in real life they are dangerous to people like yourself. When you sit in a room full of people you know have killed people you know this may be your last moment on earth for any reason and you are waiting for someone to give YOU the reason to go apesh-t first, at least that way you feel like you have the upper hand somehow even though you know you are dead(socially) and just acting out the part until it happens to you.

      • Umm…what are you saying?

        • To “shacasha”: what Dave Mowers wrote is obviously beyond you. As likely is the core pulse of the film itself.

          “Drive” is most keenly understood, implicitly and immediately, by astute viewers of cinema who ‘been there’ and survived… and with their humanity intact. It is not a movie for armchair sycophants safely ensconced in their bourgeois, skin-thin comforts, and who’ve never had to face down persistent, relentless, merciless brutality on the edge of their own, especially as children.

          Thanks for keeping it real, Dave Mowers. One of the rare few who has any legitimate clue as to what this film is really up to, and the places it reaches where few ever do, and certainly not with such sophistication, intelligence, and aesthetic control as Refn’s. Cred speaks volumes. Thanks, DM, for speaking yours. Respect.

            • shacasha, no intent to insult you. (And I appreciate the humor of your response. Nice one.) It’s the same for smart movies, which refuse to insult a viewer’s intelligence.

              Smart movies inherently challenge viewers to consider things beyond their usual expectations, beyond their familiar frames of reference. “Drive” is a perfect example of this.

              Because any story that helps us move closer even remotely to imagine – if not marginally try to understand and feel – what someone else’s experience and perspective of the world might be is, to me, a kick-ass story.

              Good stories do that. But truly brilliant storytelling sneaks up on you, tests you, dares you to question your own reflexive assumptions. That’s what “Drive” does, but a lot of people aren’t getting that point.

              Here, Refn is very skillfully toying with the standard tropes and cliches of the genre movies “Drive” is taking on: car-chase thrillers, L.A. noir crime capers, lone-gunman westerns, etc. And what does Refn do? He trumps every one of those conventions; he subjects them to a hard yet supple, minimalist yet full-throttle, 180-degree burn. A turn not on the pavement, but in your MIND.

              So, you’ve got to work at it a bit. And once you crack your way through, in a way that feels authentic and true to YOU (not necessarily to anyone else), then bam, there’s your satisfaction.

              Give “Drive” a whirl? Again?


                • Agreed, none of us should be judged for what our experiences and influences haven’t yet invited us to better understand. As you said, that we aren’t personally exposed to something doesn’t necessarily preclude our capacity to understand it. LOL… “You shouldn’t watch ‘Shame’ because you’re not a sex addict.” Touche.

                  And that’s where art comes in, does it not? To seduce (or kick) us to the next level. If we honestly want to go there, that is. And, pshh, art that entertains, too? Bring it on, baby! And, boy, Refn sure does. (If you haven’t already seen some of the man’s other flicks, please do. Maybe start with “Pusher,” then “Bronson,” then ‘graduate’ your insanity to “VH.” Your love of darkness will thank you. Haha.)

                  I can’t speak for Dave Mowers, but I don’t think he meant any harm, personally. Perhaps he was just fed up, in general, with some folks (and a lot of so-called movie critics) for not giving “Drive” a closer look. This movie’s just so damn good – in how it subverts multiple genres, in the skill and beauty of its execution – that it makes some of us movie-nuts impatient for the substantive praise that (we think) it roundly deserves. As someone else said elsewhere, tongue-in-cheek about those who don’t get this movie, we forgive them. ;)

                  Hell, given your work/sleep shift, you’re distinctly qualified to appreciate “Drive”! Almost an inside track, you might say. So, keep up the insanity. Living on the edge gives you an edge. Already proven by your love for “Drive.” Fantastic!

                    • I’ve seen Bronson because im a fan of hardy. I was going to wait for the US remake of the pusher trilogy but I have a feeling you’d advise against that. My only problem with watching them is that I don’t have netflix I still buy dvds so sometimes for foreign films its a bit of a risk for me

                • Replying higher up on this thread to your last entry about “Bronson” and “Pusher.” (There was no reply button to your last message.) Yeah, Tom Hardy. Definitely an actor to keep on the radar. Amazing in “Bronson,” and very good in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” eh? I hear you on the lack of DVD rental access. Refn’s “Pusher” trilogy might be available via legit streaming outlets? Whatever the case, good luck in seeing it. It’s really something.

                  • I was so pumped for Tinker Tailor that i actually went out and bought the book. Yeah i guess i could always go to amazon for Pusher

  5. God Damn Awesome!

    Ryan Gosling is scary as a bad guy, if you like him in this you will love him in Believer. Think of whether you should see this movie this way as a series of questions;

    You like Michael Mann films?

    You like the Sopranos?

    See this movie.

  6. Eh, not that great of a movie for me.

    First of all, the soundtrack was horrible. It felt so out of place in the scenes and it was oozing with bubble gum pop – terrible for this movie imo

    I didn’t really feel a connection with the characters at all, nor did I care for the budding romance with the two main characters. To be honest, I thought that was really fast with no explanation. I think the romance could have been left out and just showed the Driver “human side” with his interactions and care for the young boy. That was more heart-warming than seeing the guy go from creepily staring at the mother and then later face sucking her, which was a big leap I thought.

    I did, however, like the overall artistic flair of the film though. As someone mentioned, It reminded me of GTA Vice City for a minute, with it’s 70/80′s style and gratuitous gore and violence. Some may be squeamish with all the blood in the film, but I had no problem with it (even though it was excessive in some spots). The action was awesome with no complaints.

    Ending. was. terrible. and that’s basically it.

  7. This movie is soooo very slow , I’m writing my review during the middle of the movie! I don’t understand how in the hell anyone could say this is a great movie – lame/

    • Because some people like well written smart dramas and like to use their minds rather than watching mindless garbage like Fast and Furious or Transformers.

      • Sorry, but that was no great story, it was basic, and nothing new.
        A gateway driver that gets into the wrong crap and now has to save his loved ones and get out.
        When I look back at the movie I feel like nothing happened. Sure, the photografy was great, the actors were good and the soundtrack memorable, but that was not a great story.
        And the artfulness of a movie is not measured by the time of the breaks in conversations ( I hope that’s not why people like The Artist ), some of the breaks were just dumb:
        “Can you give them a ride?”

        “yes, but I’ve got no wheels”

        oh come on, are you going to give me some deep meaning for that. This movie was trying too hard to be artistic, and it failed in some parts.

        The violence was brutal, but not extreme, there is much worse to be seen my friend…

        And just a small and maybe stupid point: why does no one notice the blood in his jacket?

        And a legitimate question, I may have missed something: But why did he need a mask in the beach part?

  8. I knew this flick was in trouble when I heard my wife mouth “this is killing me.” The 8 minute staring contest in the apartment did it for her. I had to keep saying, “babe, once it gets going it’ll go hard and fast.. just watch.”
    Well, it didn’t really go down as I expected. My wife hated it, while I thought it was an ok film… slow and not what I’d expected from the previews.
    The times that it went hard.. it went HARD! All I can say, is not to see it too late in the night or drink some redbull and you’ll make it through.
    Well written flick, well acted flick but it will be too avant-garde for most viewers who aren’t forewarned.
    By the way, I hated the ending.

  9. I’m 17 and I loved every second of this movie.
    Been a huge fan of the eighties since before I could remember so the soundtrack just hooked me.
    The pacing, the tone, everything just appealed directly to me.
    Unfortunately, my idiot friends don’t have the brain capacity to agree.
    They called it (as I expected) “slow” “boring” and “a crappy waste of time”


    I can’t wait til I grow up and get to be a filmmaker myself.
    Its gonna be awesome cause I have movies like this for inspiration.

    • Oh wow, you’re 17 and you understood Drive, you have a mind of a genius.

      • Sorry if I didn’t warn you, that was sarcasm.

        • You’ll excuse me if I don’t give a crap?

    • I grew up in the 80′s it was worst decade of my life! I hate seeing its styles coming back because it was bad enough the 1st go around. I also hate bursting anyones dreams but if your going to be making movies based on crap like this then you probably be flipping burgers your whole life. Kid stay in school & get a education because this movie sucks! Unless your mentally challenged & were a helmet everywhere in which case im sorry for being an azz!

  10. Ryan Gosling is my dog!! Good movie!!

  11. If there is ONE movie last year that I regret not seeing in the theaters, it is definitely ‘Drive’… I watched it the other day on Blu-Ray and it totally blew me away… The soundtrack itself was amazing. Ryan Gosling is definitely one of the best actors out there right now with his performance in this and ‘Ides of March’ this year (also ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ – which I must admit, was a pretty great movie even though I am not a huge fan of Carrell).

  12. I loved Drive! Though I can understand why some of those didn’t like it/ didn’t get it. This movie was not intended for the mass audiences it’s marketing targeted and therefore people who don’t tend to watch art house type movies felt taken advantage of and probably a little pissed.

    A lot of what went on in the plot was not meant to be logical as it was quite evident that the Driven left his detached and calculating self behind as he got deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld and he no longer cared about anything other than his single goal of ‘rescuing’ his neighbour with who he developed a little crush on. Irrational behaviour? Definitely, but remember, this is not a normal guy who goes through life thinking the way the rest of us do. He wasn’t even thinking about the blood on his jacket.

    I thought everything put on screen was done in the exact way that the director intended. He didn’t make any mistakes or compromised any of his beliefs, he made his movie the way he wanted and I just happen to be one of those people he made it for.

  13. Amazing film, loved the final scene. Loved it!

  14. Couldnt wait to see this movie after reading all the gteat reviews! Thought had to be good movie with fast car chase scenes. One review talked about how awesome the beginning chase scene started off the action packed movie! Talking about disappointed all he did was parked under bridge for a second then as leaving redlight with cop behind i thought this must be were it gets good but no he manages to make quick left turn which cop didnt make then he pulls into parking arena as game lets out. Then main character hardly talks. Only scene i liked of movie which wasnt that great was when he was driving a Mustang which cant outrun a big Chrysler 300 movie was extremely slow & boring. Worst movie ive saw all year!

    • God you’re thick.
      You read all the reviews? Understood all the hype?
      And you wrote that lengthy b****-out about how slow it is?
      I don’t know what friggin reviews you were reading buddy,
      but everything I read actually prepared me for what this movie actually is: A slow burn character drama.
      That remark about flipping burgers… I can’t possibly see you as anything but a low IQ redneck now.
      You’re saying the movie is retarded cause its not action packed?
      Its a crime drama. I suppose you’ll b**** likewise about the Godfather?
      Lord forbid you ever try to sit through REAL cinema.
      Maybe its not the movie sucks, maybe its you and your preconceived ideas that suck. Grow up.

      And I’m sorry the 80′s were so terrible for you.
      Go find someone who’ll give a s***. Maybe they’ll sympathize.
      Not me. I don’t need your dumbass ‘pearl of wisdom’ cause I’m well past the flipping burger stages. And I’m actually intellectual enough to appreciate a good movie and not let people like you “burst my bubble”.
      You made me laugh though. Kudos.

  15. Its interesting to read the reviews, whenever someone mentions how slow, pointless and unoriginal this movie is, they get flamed with ‘you dont get it, you arent intelligent like us’ This movie was a stylish fart, nothing more. Talk about a case of the emperors clothing. I liked Refns pusher films, wanted to se something interesting and new, yet what i got was a great 10 minute intro followed by 2 hours of hackneyed stale and empty art farts.