An outsider’s love letter to L.A., Drive is a dreamy, elusive romance stained with scenes of explosive violence.
Young heartthrob of the moment Ryan Gosling stars as one of those mysterious anti-heroes you sometimes encounter in action-art movies, (think Le Samourai or Thief or even Pale Rider) – a cipher of a character with little or no backstory. All we know is that he is an expert stunt man by day and a taciturn getaway driver-for-hire who works heists by night.
Improbably he becomes caught up in his attractive neighbor’s somewhat sordid life. Played prettily by Carey Mulligan, the young Mom next door seems to be marking time before her husband gets sprung from jail. Turns out that once he does, he owes the local mobsters bigtime and so gets roped into executing a heist as reparation for the protection he received on the inside. Of course, this ex-con is gonna need a driver…
Some critics have disparaged the visual style of Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn as being a bit on the pretentious side . It’s true that under his direction the cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel is attention seeking. But I loved the way they made the gritty and seedy Valley and East L.A. neighborhoods sparkle at night. I enjoyed the use of close ups, odd camera angles and framing and frequent employment of reflections and gloomy shadows to create a nervy mood that permeates this shabby tale.
I especially loved how spare the music by Cliff Martinez was and how Refn pulled almost all of the sound out during the outbursts of ferocious brutality.
Then there’s that quiet, tiny smile that flits across our anti-heroe’s lips from time to time…
Drive is one of those quixotic movies you look forward to revisiting.
Drive is still playing in selected L.A. cinemas.