Drive Movie Review: Gosling On Weirdly Wild Auto-Pilot

There’s no lack in this society when it comes to the enormous impact and intrusion of Hollywood, into people’s everyday lives and identities. Including the warped, repeated instances reportedly of felons under the influence, so to speak, of their protagonists of choice in action movies.

But how about the impact on bottom feeder imaginations, of background players actually in these movies. Say, all those many stunt men, body doubles and extras, and any potential illusions of righteous invincibility. The eerie and mystifying neo-noir Drive takes audiences out for a cruise along that very route, and to the seemingly darkest recesses of fueled fantasy and pathological daydreams.

Ryan Gosling, as in All Good Things, perfects his knack for stoic, scary intensity once again as simply Driver. The man behind the movie stars by day – into near death experiences doing the dangerous car chase stunts at the wheel on LA film sets so the celebs don’t have to. And diversifying by lending his skills as a sideline to perps in the general public by night, as getaway chauffeur for hire during heists for real.

But oddly enough, even with these two risky gigs, Driver lives a minimum wage life, in what seems like LA’s version of a seedy welfare hotel. An understandably paranoid loner not at all into the social butterfly thing, Driver is inexplicably drawn to his moping married mom neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan, sporting the dishrag look). Whose spouse Standard (Oscar Isaac) is currently conveniently incarcerated, allowing this doomed from the get-go relationship to bloom a bit.

That is, until Standard’s release in a matter of days. Which leads the normally hyper-cautious Driver routinely into sensible self-preservation, to blow his cool. And not only embrace this dysfunctional family in his rather imaginary real life role as crimefighting superhero. But truly blur the lines as fatal fallout from his make-believe vocation in movies, between action hero and your basic vigilante serial killer. While a pair of gabby old school mobsters (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) fronting a pizza joint, connive to corner Standard and by extension Driver, for assorted outstanding underworld infractions.

Directed by flamboyant Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (The Pusher Trilogy)and adapted from the James Sallis bestseller, Drive both dazzles and disorients with its constant murky vehicular menace, that smoothly meshes with the story’s more psychopathic interior impulses. As double when not triple crosses ensue, and resolved on occasion via mutual slashing, and death by fork or assorted pizza implements.

And with Refn firmly, playfully in the driver’s seat of this flashy, smartly evasive, but style over much too subdued substance narrative. Keeping audiences as visually dazed within the reality playing out on screen, as his hopelessly irreversible body double protagonist – who has seen too many thrillers, or rather been in them – a big screen identity theft con man profoundly conned by the movies.


Rated R

3 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.