Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn take the great American crime movie for a spin and make it their own in the stylish and thrilling Drive.
With every frame and every character in Drive, there is no doubt that Refn is a fan of American crime movies. Its L.A. backdrop brings to mind the style of Michael Mann (Heat), the cool demeanour reminds of the films of Peter Yates (Bullitt), and its use of soundtrack, environment and character reminds of a young Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver).
But Drive is no mere Frankenstein of crime classics. Refn has created a standalone film which will not flounder in the shadows of its influences, but stand alongside the greats of its genre.
An engrossing opening sequence sets the tone for the cool thrills to follow. A Hollywood stuntman turned heist wheelman simply known as “Driver” (Ryan Gosling) is in the middle of a job, transporting two thieves from a break-in. It doesn’t take long for the cops to find their man, yet with steely confidence and the wheels to back it the Driver shakes off the fuzz without breaking a sweat.
Such is the nature of this character, a strong quiet type who doesn’t speak unless he has something to say, capable of the upmost sensitivity and the most brutal of violence, with Ryan Gosling completing his Driver with tooth pick hanging from his mouth and scorpion adorned on the back of his racing jacket.
Breaking his icy exterior is his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), a single mother whose husband (Oscar Isaac) has just got out of prison, only for his former accomplices to harass him and his family for one last job. Driver decides to help, but finds himself in a very messy situation when the local mob boss (Albert Brooks) becomes involved.
Winding has been on the ascent for a while now and has found his mainstream breakthrough here. While his penchant for bloody violence appears often and without warning, it is Winding’s ability to bring his scenes to an almost unbearable tension which is the most impressive, along with his mix of style, grit, action and thrills to the sounds of Cliff Martinez’s brilliant soundtrack.
Acting wise Drive features a superb cast all on top of their game, with special mention to Albert Brooks in an against type role which he pulls off without overreaching. Yet it is Ryan Gosling who is splashed all over the marketing materials, and he delivers in spades proving his worth as both movie star and calibre actor rolled into one.
Both Gosling and Refn have set in motion future collaborations, and if the stylish thrills of Drive is any indication, than this could be the beginning of quite the actor/director partnership.