Drive (2011) Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, James Biberi
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Music: Cliff Martinez
Drive is cinematic perfection. Cliff Martinez’ music captures an essence and feel for LA that reminded me of the American Gigolo soundtrack (music by Giorgio Moroder).
Ryan Gosling (whose character is unnamed) plays a stunt driver doing side work driving a getaway car for armed crooks. Becoming friendly with his married neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), things become complicated when he tries to help Irene’s husband, an ex-con, who is being threatened over old debts upon his release from prison.
Gosling’s driver is steel behind the wheel in souped-up chase scenes. His character develops quickly, growing throughout the story. His boss, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), at a garage on Reseda Boulevard, has dreams of owning a competitive stock car with (Gosling) driving it on the racing circuit with high paying sponsors. Cranston’s Shannon is a cringing, vulnerable stooge with one bum leg, and prone to bad luck. After successfully convincing a mobster named Bernie Rose (an unlikely but highly effective villain Albert Brooks), to bankroll his racing dream, things go sour. A rough entanglement ensues.
While Bernie Rose is the intimidating calculating businessman, his violent partner, Nino (Ron Perlman), epitomizes heavy handedness. The violence in this film comes through with masterfully created special effects.
Nicolas Winding Refn artfully directs with equal measures of bold strokes and a subtle brush. His characters interact with both tenderness and shocking brutality. The bursts of graphic violence rival that of any mob movie ever made, while other scenes linger languidly as Irene and her young son interact with the driver (Gosling), developing a tentative bond. The dialogue is sparse and not wastefully trite. Gosling’s driver is disarming as he melts the screen.
This film imparts nuances of the essential history and majesty of Los Angeles, even while snaking through its seamy underbelly. The contrasts and the crassness feel familiar to those who know LA. With music, often synthesized, the soundtrack brilliantly recalls a musicality from a 70s-80s synth age, sometimes grinding and pulsating rhythmically as in night music and the clubs. Always, the tone fits with the dynamic. This ride demands you crank up the sound of your home theater system. With superb cinematography and action, this is an exhilarating drive.
My grade: A+
Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing