‘Drive’ Review

Published 3 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
(Must-See)

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  1. Great review! I am so looking forward to this movie!
    The trailer was very good and I mean it has this incredible cast!
    Seeing it as soon as I can get my hands on it!

    • This movie was garbage. Very anti dialogue. Action, there was none. Cool music, absolutely. Entertaining, barely.

  2. SO um….if this does business I guess he gets his WW movie then? O_o

  3. Looks great. I had to stop watching the half way through because it was showing way too much of the story.

  4. i have never heard of it before right now…im gonna have to check it out sounds like something i would enjoy

  5. Fantastic review for a film that is just as good as everyone says it is and more. Also it’s got a sensationally great soundtrack; Cliff Martinez’ score is perfectly married up with Refn’s subtle but intense look of the film.

    You’re right, this may be Refn’s best work yet (or at least the most commercially appealing anyway). As usual, top notch write up Kofi!

  6. Based upon your superb review, Kofi, I’ll be seeing this film.
    It was not even on my radar but now I’m looking forward to it.

  7. Been so amped up to see this movie. The trailer was fantastic and Ryan Gosling is so freaking talented and I don’t think he knows how to be in a bad movie honestly. He is just so good at picking projects and is so talented. I really can’t wait to see this. Reviews have been very good so I’m happy to have been excited.

  8. looks awesome.

  9. Looks interesting but Albert Brooks?? Albert Brooks?? Okey dokey.. the next role he does well will be his first & I’ve got two different great Albert stories from when I was growing up in LA, the better one was when my grandmother made him cry.. that was awesome. ‘Oh look, it’s the world famous comedian, Albert Brooks..’ hehe

  10. wow 4.5 outa 5. Thats suprising gonna have to check this out now. have only ever disagreed with SC once and that was on Preist. ever other time the reviews r spot on.

  11. Was very excited for this, I love all of Refn’s stuff and I love neo-noir, so this just seems like something that was made for me. this just made me want to see it more

  12. I’m looking forward to seeing this film I’m not a huge Ryan fan, but I do adore Carey and so for that reason, the many great reviews that I’ve read, and the storyline, rolling out of bed and willing myself to the movie theaters shouldn’t be a problem.

  13. A review weeks before the movie is out?

  14. Watched this at the Melbourne Int’l Film Fest a month ago. Hands down, best movie of the year.

  15. the named sounded messed up and lame. but the trailer showed us it isn’t.

  16. Looks like a good movie but why does it bring back memories of the Transporter movies.

  17. Really? Better than Transporter? I wonder if it’s the same way as Equilibrium was better than The Matrix?

    • No not the same. It’s better than Transporter in the way that it’s actually a fantastic film and Transporter wasn’t. Transporter was an ok film that was fine for a one time viewing of mindless action, but there was nothing smart or great about it. Just really good stunt work with a poor plot and uninteresting characters.

      Drive is a great film with good action fantastic acting a strong plot and interesting characters.

  18. I really, really want to this. But I will wait for to come on Blu Ray=D

  19. Was lucky enough to see this and was very impressed. The above review nails it. There are periods where there is very little dialoge, which initially I found a bit unsettling, however, it did get more comfortable as the movie progressed. Visually this movie is fantastic.

  20. Great movie review and movie was great! Check it out a different breed of film finally.

  21. Take a pill, guys. I just went to see this and I’m distincly underwhelmed. I can’t believe the way this reviewer and some others rhapsodize over this movie.
    Gosling sits there through this mostly slow picture with a dumb look on his face, a blank look, or just a really vacant look. Cary Mulligan is adorable, but is wasted with nothing to do at all, except look cute and vulnerable with more boring, endless shots of her smiling at Gosling.

    The violence is really over the top, which was repulsive, and I normally don’t complain about violence in films (loved “The Departed.”)The soundtrack? I found it to be distracting and pretentious.

    On the plus side, the couple of brief car chases are really good, and it’s a blast seeing the rest of the cast like Cranston, Cristina Hendricks, Albert Brooks, etc. Otherwise, though, I felt cheated by this film, never felt totally involved, and I wanted my hour and forty minutes back.

    • Thank you. Very few can do rip offs well. The arrogance of the film maker can seep through and be a turn-off.

    • Yup, this movie sucked. I wanted my $$ back.

    • I went to see it Friday, and KonaKathie, you took every word out of my mouth. I agree 100 percent. The beginning is pretty cool but after he leaves the Impala in the parking garage his “cool” look just stops being cool and starts being “dork”. The violence was tasteless and overdone. I wasn’t entertained by the bullet-choke and the head-stomp and the eye-fork. The Mustang-Chrysler 300 chase was fantastic…but when the credits rolled I felt ripped off because that was the only good drive sequence; I expected much more Driving in Drive.

  22. Just saw this film this past Friday, and while I agree that it is not a film for everyone, I really enjoyed it. If you ask me, the movie felt liek a real life version of Grand Theft Auto Vise City, it totally had a vintage look and feel to it. Agree with the review rating completely

  23. It wasn’t bad but I was a bit bored in parts. The acting and story were great, and the violence (especially the elevator scene) was extremely graphic. I wouldn’t go as far as 4.5/5 but I would say 3.5 (maybe 4) out of 5. If it wasn’t for the boring parts, I would go as far as 4.5 or 5.

  24. I like every kind of film from The Crank movies to David Lynch films and all that lay between.

    Naysayers should be the ones taking the pill. Director Winding Refn is an established European talent and Drive shows but glimpses of what he’s capable of delivering American audiences. Don’t get me wrong, I think he made exactly the film he wanted to under the constraints he had, but most of the complaints the naysayers level at this film have to do with things like the limited car chase action and slower more character driven pace. But the guy only had 4 days TOTAL to shoot the car scenes and the 10 million dollar budget of Drive would barely cover the opening sequence of the most recent fast and furious movie. Drive is a great film as is, though definitely not for everyone, and what the director accomplished with the limited resources available to him was extremely impressive and sits alongside Attack the Block as my favourite film of the year.

    The other criticism I’ve heard deals with the violence, which FEELS a lot more gory, then it actually is, which is more a testament to the filmmakers control over how to shock an audience through tone and pacing then what has been called over the top. If one were to actually look at still frames of the supposed gore they’d see just how tame it is in comparison to almost any modern horror film out there, and if the scenes were so discomfiting, well they should be. Violence shouldn’t glorified.

  25. drive is love it or hate type movie and i loved it

  26. If “high art” means slow, badly edited and totally predictable with a soundtrack that sounds like it was ripped out of a cheesy 1980′s made for video $1 rental, then yeah I guess it is. I wanted my money and that 100 minutes of my life back. It was an hour too long and looked like it cost $150 bucks to make. It sucked a golf ball up a garden hose, people.

  27. And If a review or opinion means a flippant 4 sentence, 70 word comment in rebuttal to a piece of work that obviously struck a resounding cord with so many, then you can keep it, but I can’t take it seriously. $150 bucks would barely cover the cost of 1 days usage of the average rental car.

    “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

  28. Love love love this one. Took me back to film school when I was studying the greats. Refn’s got something, for sure, I hope he gets recognized for this kind of work come Oscar time, and in the future as well.

    I can’t not mention this though… you spelled “auteur” wrong and it’s hurting my brain.

  29. This movie is not for everyone. If you’re looking for a Fast and Furious type of film or a gore-fest, this is NOT for you. It’s very tense and subtle most of the time. As I watched it, I kept thinking about how visually stunning it was. The angles, the lighting. The soundtrack is fantastic and perfectly in-sync with the visuals. At first I was very annoyed by the font that was used in the opening credits. After a few minutes, I realized that it was also very in-line with the feel of the movie. I went into the theater expecting something excellent and left feeling very satisfied.

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