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‘Drive’ an art-house thriller

Article Published: Sep. 22, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 26, 2011
‘Drive’ an art-house thriller

Ryan Gosling stars in ‘Drive.’

“Drive” isn’t your typical action movie, and thank goodness.

Best described as an art-house thriller, it defies genre and embraces atmosphere. It’s an engrossing character study in which the character remains shrouded in mystery, where the action is strikingly violent, yet somehow understated. The result is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”) stars as the Driver. That’s the only name we get, and it’s probably just as fine by him. Stunt driver by day, getaway driver by night, it’s all driving to him, and he approaches both jobs with an unflinching coolness that’s part Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name (“The Good the Bad and the Ugly”) and part Jean Reno’s Leon (“The Professional”).

Driving is his life, and he’s content just to be behind a wheel.

A loner and a man of very, very few words, the Driver has a storied history – that much is obvious – but what of that history, he never says. Like the film’s protagonist, we’re kept strictly in the moment.
One moment finds him meeting neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan, “An Education”), a mother struggling to raise her son, Benicio (newcomer Kaden Leos), while husband Standard (Oscar Isaac, “Robin Hood”) is in prison.

The Driver takes a liking to them, but realizes their lives are in jeopardy when Standard is released from prison. Mob enforcers are strong-arming the penniless husband to pay an escalating debt, and when they threaten Irene and Benicio, the Driver offers his services.

Unfortunately, this gets him on the bad side of gangster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks, “Broadcast News”), who coincidentally produces the B-movies in which the Driver drives, meaning he knows all too well where to find him.

The premise sounds pretty conventional, but director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson”) wants none of that. Instead, we get a thriller that’s as cerebral as it is brutal, and it is brutal.

Brooks takes a terrifying turn as the coldhearted Rose, a character that exudes pure menace whenever on screen, but it’s Gosling who fittingly steals the show. He says more with a simple smile or stare than any line of dialogue could manage, and his performance brings an almost otherworldly quality to the character.

Accompanied by pumping, 1980s-inspired techno, bright pink credits and moody cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel (“Three Kings”), “Drive,” like its protagonist, exists on its own terms, and more power to it. This movie runs on premium.

“Drive,” rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 12 or visit

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