Ryan Gosling is on a roll! Unlike “The Ides Of March” where he had to be charismatic and energetic through most of the film, this movie has him in an entirely different role that captures his ability to convey depth and personality in a character that lacks quite a bit of both.
In this movie, Gosling plays a stunt driver in Los Angeles who is also a getaway driver who transports robbers and thieves away from the police after a heist. He also works at a car repair shop for a man (Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad”) who is in with L.A. mobsters (Albert Brooks & Ron Perlman). The stuntman also gets to become close with a neighboring mother (Carey Mulligan) who is waiting for her husband to be released from jail. She becomes attached to him (even though he says very little) and so does her son. When the husband (Oscar Isaac) is freed, he returns with a debt that must be repaid in order to buy his freedom and to keep his family safe. He asks the stuntman to drive him to and from the heist. Once there, the entire thing goes to hell in a handbasket and the stuntman must go into hiding to find out who is trying to kill him while also protecting the mother & son from vicious killers who will stop at nothing to get their money back.
This might sound like a typical “shoot ’em up” kind of thriller, but this one is different in a variety of ways. First off, the direction on this movie is awesome! Nicholas Refn is a director that I had never heard of but he is mostly known for his “Pusher” films that he wrote & directed. He uses a variety of styles to give LA that “80’s” feel including a keyboard driven soundtrack and lots of neon and night time shots. It could have easily come across like a bad version of “To Live & Die In L.A.”, but this movie is more like the old Bronson or Eastwood films of the 70’s. With it’s lingering camera work and a slower pace than most action thrillers, this is a new twist on an old style of movie-making that deserves recognition at the Oscars next season.
And the cast is top notch! Gosling is perfect in his role as the stuntman. Mulligan and Cranston are fantastic as his closest confidants and friends. Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman are excellent as the mobsters and the city of L.A. plays a role also, often as a background character but always there, glistening in all it’s bright lights. If it weren’t for “The Ides Of March” being brilliant in its own right, I would say “Drive” might be the film that gets Gosling more notoriety. But with both sharing time at the multiplexes, you can’t go wrong with either. Although not as interesting as his role in “March,” the stuntman definitely delivers the goods as a subtle ride with violence and mayhem. If you are a fan of thrillers that take their time setting up the story, this will be right down your alley. Think “History of Violence” without the sex scenes and you have “Drive.” And it’s awesome!
Overall Rating: A