Racing Movie Month: "Drive" Review

Photo Credit: FilmDistrict

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Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre: Action/Adventure

A Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) moonlights as a get-away driver for thieves and finds himself in serious trouble after a failed heist. The ex-con, wanting to cut his ties from the underworld and feeling a strong pull towards helping his attractive neighbor and her young son, takes on a risky, but high-reward job that creates a fast-action, thrilling chain of events.

Nicolas Winding Refn directed "Drive," which is based on the novel by James Sallis. The cast members provide a larger-than-life look into their world, except for the driver, who offers very little insight into who he is or what he feels. The emotionless driver, played by Ryan Gosling, offers audiences a Clint Eastwood type of silent hero. He works as a stunt driver and mechanic by day, and in his spare time, drives the get-away car for thieves as a freelancer. He seems almost emotionless throughout most of the movie, but his actions display a hero within that no words ever could.

Driver's beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benecio (Kaden Leos), seem to spark some emotion in the hard, stone-faced character with their sincere vulnerability. When Irene's husband is released from prison, he immediately sees the shady side of Driver's nature, and without reluctance, involves him in a million-dollar heist plan. After Driver learns that the heist is needed to pay off the husband's protection money and keep Irene and her son safe, he agrees to do the job.

Things take a horrible and unexpected turn as the heist money is much more than Driver was told, and a set-up puts his life at risk. He finds himself being chased by serious criminals played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Brooks plays Bernie Rose, a producer of B-rated movies, like the ones at Driver's day job. Brooks is not in the least bit funny in this film, but is a ruthless criminal out for blood and revenge. Nino, played by Perlman, runs a huge operation behind a pizzeria front and has the same ruthlessness as Brooks.

With the large pay-off in the trunk of his car, Driver barely escapes alive as he puts his stunt driving to the ultimate test while he is being chased by armed and dangerous men. Once he realizes that these men are after more than just the money in his trunk, he shifts gears and goes on the offense. His true feelings become clearer as he races to protect Irene and her son from the men who plan to kill them. He seems to take more interest in the protection of Irene and her son than he does for himself.

The stunts performed in the film seem realistic. The cars accelerate, drift, spin and crash with high-action intensity. The fast-paced action scenes keep viewers on the edge of their seats for a good portion of the movie.

The driver takes the lead and starts hunting down and eliminating the men who plan to hurt his beautiful neighbor and son. The money in his trunk belongs to dangerous mobsters in New York, and anyone tied to the robbery is being eliminated, so the race to beat them before they beat him is quite intense.

As the movie comes to a close, Driver has taken control over most of the threats in his way, but knows there are more coming. Instead of watching over his shoulder, he fears for the safety of Irene and her son. Driver goes to the crime boss and strikes up a deal. He offers the million in his trunk for their safety. The mobster agrees, but makes it clear that he cannot offer safety to Driver. A knife fight leaves the hero wounded and Bernie dead. Driver honors the deal and leaves the million on Bernie's dead body and drives away.

Before the final scene where Driver is driving away for the last time, he makes a call to Irene to let her know how he feels about her and that she and her son's safety is now guaranteed.

The film offers a variety of excitement and action and even some hints of romance. The ending, however, leaves viewers with an incomplete feeling, as the story seems to unfold and surround the love and affection the driver feels for the beautiful neighbor and her son, yet there is no closure or happy ending. Everyone is safe, the threats have all been removed; Driver did protect Irene as promised but never got to run off with her.