This is an odd movie. I went assuming it was a smarter, cooler Fast and the Furious, and there are a couple of good driving scenes. But it is primarily an exercise in backward-looking noir, trying to re-create the look of 1970s driving movies, perhaps with a bit of Point Blank thrown in. The driver is Ryan Gosling, who is never given a name, and is practically affectless, with barely a change of expression except for a slight smile when he is around Irene (Carey Mulligan).

The opening scene is close to a masterpiece, as Gosling drives a getaway car through the streets of Los Angeles, alternating bursts of high speed driving with a careful cat-and-mouse game played with the police. But very rapidly the film enters noir territory as the driver falls for Mulligan and gets involved in a heist that goes wrong, drawing in the local mob. The movie also gets very bloody, as we see the effects of a shotgun blast to the head and Gosling kicks a man’s face to a bloody pulp. There is an ethereal quality to the movie that didn’t work for me; the director, Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Pusher) seemed to have some pretensions to making a different kind of movie that never quite emerged. But it worth seeing above all for a simply wonderful performance from Albert Brooks as the brains of the local mob. He manages to be scarily menacing and charming at the same time, and his eruptions of violence appear out of nowhere. He really is the revelation in this role.

14 thoughts on “Drive”

  1. Is this based on The Driver, the film from the 70s directed by Walter Hill? …I highly recommend that movie, featuring a (miscast) Ryan O’Neal as a getaway driver whose entire identify is invested in his criminal driving skills and a great Bruce Dern as a twitchy cop.

    1. i just saw The Driver on your, michael, recommendation and i think i disagree with chris. the first scene is very very similar, the premise is similar, and the tone is similar. clearly, the first movie inspired the second. i agree that ryan o’neal is miscast. was paul newman busy elsewhere? bruce dern, on the other hand, is fabulous.

      1. yes, Paul Newman would have been great–good casting, Gio. Of course the obvious person for the role would be Steve McQueen but perhaps they found that too obvious. or perhaps he was already sick by then? I have not yet seen Drive but it’s on the list…

  2. Not really. I watched The Driver a couple of years ago, at your recommendation, and loved it. This shares a similar title and a getaway driver, but nothing else. It is based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis.

  3. This movie rocked. It’s a European art film take on a Hollywood genre standard, yet I was hooked from the very beginning (the slow burns, the glacial, Nordic pacing, the propulsive/explosive chase scenes, the affectless performance by Gosling (I’ll take this over his methody overacting any day), the palpable sense of tension and unseen danger that gives shape to nearly every scene, the Euro-synth-pop that menacingly underscores the entire enterprise). This is definitely a Refn film and, as far as I can tell, he deserved the Cannes award for best direction (Ok, how did Malick not win that award?). Albert Brooks was indeed excellent in a career changing performance . . . but so was Bryan Cranston. I need to wrap my head around it a bit more, but man what a great flick. Refn is the real deal. The Fast and Furious is an empty commodity compared to this. Did I say I liked it? One of the best films of the year.

  4. I agree with Jeff, this movie is excellent. Though “rocked” is not exactly the word. It swoons. Although the car chases indeed rock, the rest of the film moves along in a dream-like trance to the music of Angelo Badalamenti. And this is not the only thing that makes this film David Lynch-esque. This film comes as close to Blue Velvet as it does to Fast and the Furious, not simply in terms of style. Sallis’s story (adapted by Hossein Amini) resembles that of Blue Velvet: in both we have a young man, something of an outsider, who out of a desire to help a woman (to whom he is attracted) and her son, gets himself involved in a nasty mob underworld. It’s at turns beautiful and gruesome, sometimes both. It’s foul, and it’s poetic. Throw in a little bit of Shane there as well, by the way.

    It’s a fantastic L.A. film, particularly for those who live/have lived there. Familiar landmarks that have never made it to the big screen (such as the Big 6 Market on 6th).

    Great casting, too. I agree Brooks is terrific, but it was nice to see Christina Hendricks. And Ron Perlman was fine as well. As for Gossling, I thought he was great.

    I’d like to see more movies like this one. One of the best of the year.

  5. It does swoon but there are enough scenes propelled forward by surprising bursts of hyper-violence that Drive deserves to “rock” as well. Badalamenti does something, I think (I remember his name in the opening credit sequence), but I got a hold of the OST and Cliff Martinez (who was once a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and has scored many of Steven Soderbergh’s films) is credited for nearly all of the instrumental underscoring (no mention of Badalamenti on IMDB . . . oops, I just read his name is in the credit sequence by mistake as it was meant to be a “placeholder”). A couple of older Euro-pop songs round out the goodness (“A Real Hero” – featuring Electric Youth – by a band named College and “Under Your Spell” by Desire).

    I see the Blue Velvet connections but Gosling’s character is far more enigmatic and self-assured than Jeffrey Beaumont. This driver could kick Frank Booth’s ass (and that super cool scorpion jacket definitely rocks). The Shane reference works for me, but I was also reminded of mid-career Clint Eastwood (Pale Rider, High Plains Drifter). A bit of Sergio Leone in the mix as well.

    Finally, I must have watched an early print of the film as there is a scene underscored to a composition Trent Reznor wrote for The Social Network.

  6. Watched this again last night. I’m beginning to suspect the version I saw a few weeks ago was indeed a work print. Drive played even better on my flat screen, and man it did indeed swoon all over the damn place. This is one hell of a well-crafted movie – gorgeously shot, romantic, entertaining, propulsive. Gosling keeps such a tight reign over his stoic and enigmatic character. There is no psychology; just a purity of intent that is heartbreaking to watch as the action unfolds. This film may be nearly perfect.

  7. I mentioned above that I thought Angelo Badalamenti composed the film’s score. This was based on the credit that appears in my version of Drive. What was Badalamenti’s association with the film?


    P.S. WordPress seems to be giving me respect now. Chris, can you delete comments 10-14?

  8. I’ve read it was just a place marker for the work print before Cliff Martinez came on board. Obviously that work print has been around the block and back again. Perhaps Refn was simply giving a shout out to Lynch and company.

  9. i finally watched this a week or so ago, courtesy netflix instant. i quite liked it but not as much as some of you did. the comments above had me expecting something at least vaguely lynchian but i didn’t find anything–not in the tone and not in the plot (which is largely conventional–not that there’s anything wrong with that). i was also expecting it to be far more violent than it is–partly on account of what people have said about it and largely on account of having seen (also on netflix instant) the director’s valhalla rising, which features, among other things, late-period motley crue bassist, mads mikkelsen disemboweling a man with his hands.

    some nice performances but not a whole lot more, i don’t think.

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