VOD film review: Drive
James R | On 15, Jul 2016
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks
“What do you do?” asks Carey Mulligan, sitting nervously in the kitchen. Ryan Gosling stands still. He says nothing. Then, after a few seconds, he smiles slowly. “I drive,” he says. That’s pretty much all there is to Drive: Nicolas Winding Refn’s thriller is made up of 10% car chases, 20% Carey Mulligan, and 70% Ryan Gosling standing still, saying nothing, pausing for a few seconds, and then smiling slowly. Needless to say, it’s 100% awesome.
For a film with a verb as its title, Drive is surprisingly stationary. The story, which sees a Hollywood stunt driver get involved with his next door neighbour (Mulligan) and her husband’s post-prison heist, has a definite lack of action, but that’s no bad thing. Winding Refn is content to drift casually along, with an 80s cassette tape playing, soaking up the retro atmosphere.
The candy floss lettering of the opening credits and Gosling’s shiny jacket scream period cheese, but beneath the bonnet, Drive has all the anti-social tics of Jean-Pierre Melville’s loner, Le Samourai – a man who, as he steps out from behind the wheel and moves towards another human being, ends up in a world of trouble. And so the sugary Michael Mann sunsets and gorgeous cinematography are loudly punctuated by bursts of graphic violence. That’s where Ron Perlman comes in.
Becoming mixed up with loan sharks and gangsters, Gosling’s anonymous white knight finds himself faced with Perlman’s typically butch villain, a woman who looks nothing like Christina Hendricks, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston as Shannon, the Driver’s slippery yet loyal boss, and a surprisingly intimidating Albert Brooks. Together, these threatening characters keep the plot moving, mainly because they do all the talking; Gosling and Mulligan cruise through their romance barely saying a word, and it’s testament to both that they still engage. Gosling, in particular, cements his leading man skills with all the quiet laid-back charm of Steve McQueen or Alain Delon – rarely has a violent sociopath been so likeable.
“A real human being… and a real hero,” sings the movie’s signature tune, emphasising Gosling’s transformation from car mechanic into Man with No Name. Yes, it’s a self-aware mix tape of Taxi Driver, a Western, and classic 60s European thrillers, but Drive has a pace all of its own. It may take time to settle into the loose seats, but once it’s in gear, it’s a seriously smooth ride. By the end, you’ll be standing still and not saying much, but you’ll be smiling all the way home.