When we heard that Ryan Gosling would be playing a Hollywood stunt driver who’d turn into a criminal getaway driver, we pictured The Transporter mixed with The Italian Job. Then, the film opened with an action sequence as intense as it was artistic, devoid of music and replaced instead by the pounding in my chest. Our expectations were wrong. Simply put, Drive, directed by Nicolas Refn, is a pleasant surprise.
Gosling’s character is the mysterious man behind the wheel, whose name is never revealed. Just when he is beginning to fall for his stunning neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), he finds out that her husband is returning from jail. Not only that, but the husband is in need of Gosling’s driving abilities to pay off debts from his time behind bars. The job, however, goes terribly wrong and leaves Gosling in a mess of criminal figures who make him their next target.
Even with its dense plot, the film never feels weighed down by it, driven mostly by visuals and action rather than dialogue. It’s up to the audience to connect the many dots that make up the narrative.
Drive is not for the faint of heart, though. The movie earns its R-rating with nudity, violence and substantial amounts of blood. The violence may even flirt on the edge of gratuitous as it spins out of control toward the climax.
Still, the audience is always captivated and engaged. Behind all the shock value and gore is a love story that feels consistently authentic, forcing Gosling to go further into danger to follow his emotions.
Indie film lovers will be delighted by the attention to the style and story. Action flick fans may find themselves pushed to accept a much darker and realistic tone than what they’re used to. Either way, it’s a success.