Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman
Written by: Hossein Amini, based on a book by James Sallis
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity
Running Time: 100
Date: 20/05/2011

Drive (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Head Over Wheels

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Danish-born Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher, Fear X, Bronson, Valhalla Rising) isn't exactly a household name yet, but he might be after Drive; he might also elicit comparisons to Quentin Tarantino, which would be entirely deserved. Drive is steeped in movies, especially moody 1980s films by Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, and William Friedkin -- as well as any genre films about stoic, secretive heroes -- but at the same time it feels like something new.

The "driver" (Ryan Gosling) drives stunt cars for the movies by day, and by night he hires out his services for criminals that need rides away from crime scenes. He works with the hard-luck but cheerful mechanic Shannon (Bryan Cranston) on both jobs. He's incredibly skilled, lives a quiet, simple, Zen-like life and has all his bases covered -- until he meets his pretty neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). When Irene's husband is released from prison, the driver reluctantly agrees to help him on a job that will get him out of debt and out of trouble. Everything goes wrong, and the fallout leads back to a pair of sinister thugs (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman). Can the driver drive his way out of this mess?

Its style prevails over its substance, but what style! This is not to disparage the film's substance, however; clearly Refn adores actors, and he finds many tiny moments of warmth, adoration and humor within the film's steely surface. In one impeccably-framed scene, the driver and the girl merely smile at one another, and it hints at untold depths. Every actor here delivers his or her best work, especially the colorful villains and sidekicks. Only the extreme, shocking violence could get in the way of total adoration for this sublime piece of genre work.
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