Genre: Arthouse Action Noir
Premise: A Hollywood stunt driver by day, getaway driver by night (played by Ryan Gosling) gets caught up in a heist gone wrong and exacts bloody revenge on those out to kill him.
Behind-The-Scenes: Director Nicolas Winding Refn won the Best Director award at this year's Cannes Film Festival for Drive. Check out his 2009 film Bronson (featuring a jaw-droppingly awesome lead performance from Tom Hardy) if you haven't seen it yet. Refn and star Ryan Gosling really clicked apparently - they're set to collaborate on a handful of other films, including a remake of Logan's Run.
The Good: The soundtrack is amazing - full of synthesizer-heavy, female-vocal, pseudo-'80s Euro-pop tunes. I bought it on iTunes as soon as I got home from the theater. The pre-credits opening sequence is probably the best part of the movie, as Gosling's Driver outmaneuvers a squad of police cars and helicopters during a getaway. Refn has talent to burn - he's one to watch, folks. The cinematography and art direction are outstanding. Refn does a really terrific job of capturing the moody '80s texture of L.A., recalling the works of Michael Mann and William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. Gosling continues to have a stellar year and showcase his range as an actor. The pink cursive font of those title and end credits is pretty damn cool. Walter White! Er, sorry - Bryan Cranston! Albert Brooks nicely plays against type as the main heavy.
The Bad: Drive is a classic case of style over substance. While the visuals never disappoint, the story doesn't grip you the way it should and plays out in an overfamiliar fashion, with no real surprises. No knock on Gosling's performance, but his character, as written, is a frustrating hero. He has no name - known only as "Driver" - and keeps his emotions firmly in check. There is no real identity for audiences to latch onto - he's a blank slate, barely human at times, and it's hard to get too wrapped up in his journey. I appreciated the deliberate pacing, but Refn could have married the arthouse and actions scenes in a more satisfying manner.
Should You See It?: Depends. Refn is a truly gifted filmmaker and there is plenty going on in Drive to recommend for serious moviegoers, but for the more casual action crowd, this may be a tad too arty and abstract for their taste. It stuck with me though, and I definitely want to see it again when it hits Blu-Ray.
Rating: ***1/2 stars. If you had asked me right after seeing it, I'd have said 3 stars, but the more I think about it, the more I like it, which is always a good sign.