Director Nicholas Winding Refn is no stranger to creating an edgy feel in his films and “Drive” is no exception.
Refn has created a film that seems odd and sweet to begin with, but don’t be fooled; midway through things change and the quirky mood turns to a dark and twisted one.
Ryan Gosling plays The Driver, an unnamed mechanic who drives for a living, both in get-away cars and as a Hollywood stunt man. He’s quiet, reserved, and very unassuming.
Bryan Cranston plays The Driver’s boss Shannon. He talks too much and tries too hard, but has looked out for The Driver for years, and is ready to get the both of them out of any trouble that may come their way.
The trouble comes in the form of a pretty young mother named Irene (Carey Mulligan), her soon-to-be-released jail bird husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) and their precocious son Benicio (Kaden Leos). Standard, upon his release, finds that he has an old mob debt to repay and gets help from The Driver in settling it.
It’s here that we get to see there’s a little more to the mechanic’s quiet demeanor than what we thought.
It’s here that we see his desire to fight for Irene and Benicio even if he has to settle Standard’s debt to show his devotion.
Things go horribly wrong at this point.
Blood flows freely from that point on.
What should have been a quick fix becomes a mess and The Driver now finds it’s his head on the chopping block.
Gosling turns in yet another great performance here; always pushing the envelope just before it becomes outlandish. He’s fascinating to watch. We see there’s something behind the quiet exterior.
We know there’s something brewing there, but we don’t know what is hiding below the surface.
The same goes for Mulligan who also creates a character that makes us forget anything else she has ever done. The fear and longing behind her eyes is torturous and yet understandable.
The more she finds out about The Driver the more she wants to run away from him, but she can’t because she is so drawn to him.
Cranston is a jumble of fantastic nerves and great supporting work as The Driver’s boss. He almost steals the film.
Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman play the two west coast “mobsters” after The Driver.
Brooks is always great, but here, his comedic bad guy seems out of place and Perlman’s snarling is overdone.
“Drive” is a great film despite minor casting issues. The direction is clean, and disturbing and the cinematography and editing keeps us intrigued. Like a bad car accident, one simply can’t look away.
4.5 stars out 5