{2jtab: Movie Review}

Drive - Movie Review


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Genre-hopping shifts into high gear with director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.  The style switch-up is as violently guttural as a Sam Peckinpah flick and as steely-eyed as Jean-Pierre Melville’s handling of exaggerated exchanges, and yet, Drive never loses its cool among all the pulpy influences on display.  Drive is a knife-wielding blast that will leave some audience members scratching their heads.  While some may disagree with its healthy dose of slow motion splatterings and skull-crushing jabs, one cannot argue with the overall mood created by its director and supported by its rich cast, namely Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks.

Copping the whole Man with No Name attitude of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, Gosling stars as another no-named go-to stunt man for the movies.  He’s wild and reckless and super smooth; think Steve McQueen played by Clint “Cool as a Cucumber” Eastwood (or vice versa) and you’ll be onto some pretty happening vibes.  The stunt work is a dangerous job, sure, but that’s only his 9-5 job.  The real danger happens at night when he moonlights as a getaway driver for small-time heists in souped-up vehicles “doctored” by his friend, Shannon (Bryan Cranston).  Shannon works for a pair of threatening gangsters, Bernie (Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman), who own a major piece of Los Angeles' crime business.  You learn quickly that these two are not to be messed with.  Ever.

Enter Gosling’s beautiful apartment neighbor (Carey Mulligan).  She’s got a kind-hearted kid and a criminal husband (Oscar Isaac) who is almost ready to be released from jail.  Everything is chaste…for awhile.  Sparks fly soon enough...including the danger.  When a little heist goes big-time bad, Gosling discovers just how dangerous his way of life and the people in it can be to him.

Things get ugly real quick.  Of course, ugly for him is a pleasure for us and the unloading of the plot and all that follows is certainly a HUGE part of the film’s appeal.  Written by Hossein Amini, Drive is a blood-stained look at just how many clever tricks of the trade one steely-nerved driver has up his silver and scorpion-tagged jacket as he attempts to outsmart everyone…including the audience.

Because the narrative is more than fair to its characters over the standard action flick (in spite of the quasi-typical handling of its female roles), Drive never becomes a furious and hair-pulling endeavor.  Poetry is motion and motion (even of the slower sort) the movie absolutely delivers.  Now, because much of the action is underplayed and quiet (ala Ronin) some will suggest that nothing – except for two intense car chases – ever really happens and walk out disappointed.  Obviously, they weren’t paying attention.  Drive is loaded with subtle action scenes that snake by almost unnoticed.  An oxymoron?  A paradox?  Can such a thing even exist?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  The way Refn (who, if news reports are to be believed, was hand-picked by Gosling) handles the scenes is the very definition of silent muscle; it’s been a long time since an action film has been this art-house exemplified.  Pulp Fiction anyone?

From the cat-and-mouse game of chase that opens the film to the unexpected heights of the ending, Drive is certainly something to see, feel, and emulate.  Watch if the uncharacteristically menacing performance from Brooks doesn’t get an acting nod from this.  He certainly deserves it.  The energy isn’t limited to solely in front of the camera either.  In its best moments, one can certainly feel what’s waiting behind the camera.  Eight films into his career, Refn is certainly announcing himself as a bit of a mad genius.  Could this be his calling card?

Drive certainly isn’t one for the squeamish or young as its violent intensity certainly outweighs its summery blockbuster noodlings and B-movie nods.  It also isn’t a film for anyone with a medium to low attention span.  Unlike John Woo, Refn rewards you with another bout of steadyhandinitis.  Your biggest complaint will be the overkill with the loooooong pauses.  Relax, man.  “It’s called art!” will be the deafening response. And rightly so.  Drive is a generous helping of refreshing art.  If anything, you will remember a handful of its scenes for the rest of your life.

Smartly paced and - even with the unfocused nature of its lens - super slick, the movie challenges its every twist and calculated turn with a euro-vibe that proves unshakeable.  Even its soundtrack, supplied by Cliff Martinez, pulses and zips along with the on-screen action in a cinematic euro-feel that feels, at once, familiar and so very foreign.  All this can mean only one thing: Drive is cursed (or blessed) to be a cult classic.  And we (that is, the fringe dwellers) will gladly accept it.

Regardless of how you swing on the subject, everyone should fasten their seatbelts.  There’s no stopping this Drive.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Drive - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
: Hossein Aminia
Ryan Gosling; Carey Mulligan; Albert Brooks; Ron Perlman; Christia Hendricks
: Action | Crime | Drama | Thriller
Memorable Movie Quote: "If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down; I don't carry a gun... I drive."
There Are No Clean Getaways.
Official Site:
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
january 31, 2012

Plot Synopsis: A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

Drive - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

3 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 31, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy; BD-Live
Playback: Region A

Maybe the contrast is a bit too baked (by only a notch or two), but still Drive is a nice-looking 1080p transfer.  The digital camerawork is excellently captured by the digital encode and, of course, the pink splashy title card is a virtual neon heaven.  Black levels are solid and retain their shape even in total darkness.  Fine detail is extreme and brings a new level of clarity to the action.  Lines are clean and flesh tones are warm.  Throughout its many atmosphere, Drive maintains its cool with a solid transfer that fine tunes itself scene by scene.   Newton Thomas Siegel's photography is handled with the care it deserves and comes across with a crackling spirit of color and confidence.  The sound – presented here in a stand-out Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track – is an auditory delight.  It’s very muted at the beginning of the film, but absolutely rips the floorboards apart in the final act.



  • Commentary?  What commentary?  This is getting ridiculous, folks.

Special Features:

With only five featurettes and only one being of actual substance, Drive is a bit of a disappointment.  We get pieces that look at the character and the cast and another that highlights the stunts of the film and even one that looks at the streamlined story as well.  Unfortunately, none of them offer any real value to the actual film and serve as a surprising amount of fluff.  It’s not until we get to Refn’s 25-minute discussion of the film that we actually get some meat and potatoes.  He shares his thoughts on the making of the film and is so clear in thought that one wonders why the hell a commentary track wasn’t recorded.  Anyone smell a SPECIAL EDITION of Drive already cooking?  I do.  Ugh.

  • I Drive (5 min)
  • Under the Hood (12 min)
  • Driver and Irene (6 min)
  • Cut to the Chase (5 min)
  • Drive Without a Driver: Entretien Avec Nicolas Winding Refn (26 min)
  • BD-Live
  • UV Copy

{2jtab: Trailer}