Rated R 100 min. 2011

Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn made a few ugly and brutal and bone-crunchingly violent movies in Europe, and now he’s gone Hollywood with Drive without actually going Hollywood. There’s far less driving in the film than you might expect, given the title and given the fact that it’s about Ryan Gosling’s unnamed movie stunt driver who has a side job in freelance getaway driving, and that it’s set in Los Angeles, where the car is worshipped. Instead, Refn (working from the novel by James Sallis, adapted for the screen by Hossein Amini) seems intent on teasing us with the prospect that a Hollywood action movie might break out at any moment. Mostly, we wait along with Gosling’s driver. Punctuating such moments are others of intense motion — a car chase here, a shootout there — that erupt with such sudden fury that you barely realize they’ve begun before they’re over. Gosling so skillfully navigates this still-waters man through a tale of crime gone wrong that our ultimate revulsion of him is tempered with pity. Oh yes, his desire to help his pretty neighbor (Carey Mulligan) steers him wrong and into the paths of small-time gangsters (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman, such delightfully twisted casting choices), and then, when the desire to help turns into an urgency to protect her, he does something so terrible that — well, eventually our pity turns to doubt. Perhaps we were wrong about him. Perhaps he is a tease, the Hollywood hero who threatens to break out but never does because he can’t. He is the Hollywood hero touched by the reality that he is a psychopath. And he presents an important question: If we are repulsed by him, why are we not repulsed by Hollywoodized versions of the same character?

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Hossein Amini

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston

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