Drive (2011) Review: You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry, You’ll Try To Run Over Something With Your Car

Yell! Magazine’s review of Drive:

With a hard-nose protagonist whose part time jobs alone would make any man feel like a walking pile of personified oatmeal, Drive gives us the ’80s-style action movie that both critics and action fans alike have been waiting for. It’s injected with that kind of undeniable style that manages to stand both with AND above substance — almost like the style itself had become so ingrained and tangible that it became sentient, sprouted arms and shoved Substance into a locker. Then it took Substance’s lunch money and kind of just left him there for a while.

In other words, Drive is the kind of film that looks bad-ass, feels bad-ass, and manages to keep you entertained almost through bad-assery alone. In the hands of a less-skillful director, it could feel forced, but Nicolas Winding Refn shoots it so well, it might as well be a three-pointer. He reminds you of the days when your protagonist could have his own manly-man catch phrase delivered with an icy cold stare, and you’d still be able to take him seriously.

Drive (2011) - Ryan Gosling
"We just kind of call him 'Driver'."

Beginning with the first scene, we’re given a taste of Ryan Gosling’s tendency to stay one step ahead of his pursuers, and if he ever winds up in a tight spot, he’s smart enough to improvise a quick escape with just enough leverage at the right moment. His status is set as a thinking man of action, as is the tone for the film’s favoring of bait-and-switch tactics –- not just in the sense that the plot can be unpredictable, but in the way that the tone itself eventually decides to do a sharp 180 and kick its carefully established subtlety to the curb.

The moment that I had left the theater, I had the ineluctable urge to hop into my car, start the engine, and then stab somebody in the eye with a fork.

And that pretty much sums up Drive’s narrative in a nutshell –- you start off feeling like you’re tearing down the open road, behind the wheel of the finest automobile you can imagine, you blink once, and the next thing you know the car you were once laying down tracks with has transformed into some kind of funky-ass space-faring rocket ship. You’ll either be tickled pink or rendered insensate.

As you can guess, Ryan Goslin takes the lead as NAMELESS PROTAGONIST – stunt driver and mechanic by day, criminal heist getaway driver by night. He’s mentored by a luckless garage owner named Shannon (Bryan Cranston) and takes quiet interest in Irene (Carey Mulligan), his neighbor. Things become complicated when Irene’s husband (Oscar Isaac) finally returns from prison, as he owes money to a man named Cook (James Biberi). Despite the images of joviality that his name suggests, Cook is in cahoots with Jewish mob-man, Nino (Ron Perlman) and business partner, Bernie Rose  (Albert Brooks). After a certain job goes terribly wrong, they’re fated to be left on Gosling’s “Must Kill” list, and tension thickens like some kind of deliciously corrupt stew of madness.

Drive (2011) - Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston is opium for the soul.

As the wonderful, stunt-driving savant that he is, our protagonist’s cool factor is inversely proportional to how much he talks and initially, it’s not made clear whether it’s just his way of expressing apathy, shyness, or a burgeoning killer instinct just waiting to be unleashed. Some could find it annoying, but it also makes him all the more interesting. Much akin to the glimmering amalgamations of refinement that he drives, our protagonist too has plenty of pent-up fury boiling up from beneath the hood.

And yet, he doesn’t turn into a quivering pile of sentimental-man-mush when his MILF of a neighbor catches his eye. He keeps his mouth characteristically shut, and it makes for a lot of awkward, romantic pauses that either work with magnificence or bog down the pacing, depending on your persuasion. For the most part, though, it works because you know that when he’s done making eyes at “whatever her name is” shit’s about to go down, and it’s about to go down smooth.

You see, when it does go down, you’ll either find yourself struck in the face with a curve ball or hold back a laugh in sublimated shock. Drive eventually throws a couple of quick bouts of intense, graphic violence at you, and if you think about it, it draws a clever parallel between cars and the Driver himself. A cool, calculated exterior housing an almost unrestrained fury. If you keep this in mind, you’re in for a treat. If not, get yourself ready for a tall, frosty glass of confusion.

But when the gore is brought forth, it comes with no apparent warning and is delivered in brief flashes. You don’t drown in it, you’re teased with it. It’s used sparingly — and given the context — you’re never quite sure when it’s going to happen again. If you’ve ever seen someone’s pet dog accidentally wink, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Drive (2011) - Ryan Gosling
You never know if he's going to give you a thumbs-up or punch you in the throat.

The Verdict:[rating:3.5]

“Why only 3.5?” The hell do you mean “only 3.5”? This is a film that could have wound up as one big action-filled blast-from-the-ass, and yet managed to be a masterfully crafted “European” looking piece that’ll give you tonal whiplash if you’re paying close attention. It’s probably not as accessible as Contagion and doesn’t leave as lasting an impact, but if you like action -– hell, if you grind up action, divvy it into little lines and snort it with a side of pathos, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything in theaters quite like Drive. It’ll punch you in the face, stomp on your neck, and then proceed to seek out your immediate family. If action enemas are your kind of deal, then be sure not to miss it.

Drive (2011) Poster Large
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
16 September 2011
Nicolas Winding Refn
Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Jeff Wolfe, James Biberi, Russ Tamblyn, and Bryan Cranston
Action, Crime, Drama
Official URL:

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