DriveFeature Film |
The visuals have drive, but the plot is drivel.
Drive starts strong, with a disarmingly quiet, no-nonsense, smartly executed chase sequence, but it isn't long before the sloppy plot and filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn's unjustified grandiosity bog things down. Refn directs the suspenseful moments with a cool efficiency worthy of his cocksure lead character, but he's clearly aiming for the glossy existentialism of prime Michael Mann territory here, and the slapped-together story, based on the novel by James Sallis, is a hindrance. Ryan Gosling plays the unnamed protagonist, a supernaturally skilled driver who does small-time Hollywood stunts and drives getaway for local crooks. He falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose ex-con husband (Oscar Isaac) inadvertently put her and her young son in danger, and makes an ill-advised effort to help them. Gosling and Mulligan are terrific young actors, but they're miscast here. They seem like elves lost in a world of trolls and ogres (including the convincingly desperate Isaac, a disheveled Bryan Cranston, a scenery-chewing Ron Perlman, and—in a brilliantly underplayed sinister turn—Albert Brooks). In this context, Gosling comes off as pallid and androgynous, more Tony Perkins than Robert Mitchum. Brooks and Cranston deliver perfectly tuned performances, and Drive has style to spare, which Refn commendably doesn't let get in the way of the coherence of the action. But the leads feel out of place, and the drama never comes together. The movie's thrills are all on its shiny surface.