Drive (2011)

This guy would make a killing at delivering pizzas.

Driver (Ryan Gosling), a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, is lured from his isolated life by a lovely neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. His newfound peace is shattered, however, when her violent husband is released from prison.

The weird thing about Drive is how this is being advertised as a slam-bang, action thriller with a Fast & Furious look of cars. But that is far from the truth.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) has a great knack for making incredibly bloody films, seem so beautiful. The film reminded me of an 80’s noir with it’s synth-crazy score, the hot pink title cards, and even the colorful as well as gritty look of the under-belly of LA that had me reminded of a Michael Mann film. There are some real great scenes where Refn brings out this very dark mood within the material with the way he films and the way he makes it all sound.

The problem with his direction is that I feel like too many times he doesn’t let the story tell itself at all, and just wants to basically remind people that he’s the one directing here and every shot is shot with his artsy-fartsy trademark. This didn’t bother me that much but when you have a script like this it really does get annoying after awhile.

I thought that the script had its moments where it truly wreaked in awesomeness but then other times, I just felt bored and bothered by what this film was doing. Almost every scene where these characters talk to each other is just filled with some awkward pauses and very slow responses that would have any person trying to leave the conversation as soon as possible. About the third time that I heard Gosling breath and Mulligan sigh, I just about had it about up to here with it, and relied on the action for my entertainment.

Oh wait, there’s barely any of that either. The action here is very short but done so well because of the way Refn creates the tension and keeps the bloodiness packing on up. He also adds this extra colorful flair to every scene, so when some guy is getting his head smashed in, not only is it bloody, but it’s also bright and colorful. This I liked and even though there’s only 2, that’s right, 2 car chases, I still liked them.

However, my problem lies within the fact that I just wish they actually gave us more of the awesome action rather than focus on these boring and awkward conversations that didn’t make me laugh, or really feel any more of an emotional connection to the story, it just annoyed me. I can see why Refn wanted to focus more on the story and visual flair rather than the action but when you got some writing that’s as boring as this is, you start to get pretty annoyed.

The real reason to see this film though is indeed, Ryan Gosling, aka one of my top man-crushes. Gosling plays The Driver and is quiet, calm, and relaxed throughout the majority of the film, but when it comes to him flipping shit, I was totally scared in all the right ways. Gosling plays both sides of this character believably well so you believe the subtlety that he has and the physical anger he projects from his character. I mean I was intimidated by Gosling here and every scene he is in, he uses that look on his face and his body language to convey a sense that his character is feeling every scene and it works so well. My man is on a roll!

The rest of the cast is also pretty good too. Carey Mulligan is good as the sweet Irene, although I think her and Gosling could have really projected some great screen chemistry given the right material; Bryan Cranston is gritty in his role as Shannon, the guy who brings Gosling into the world of crime; Ron Perlman is entertaining to watch as Nino the Jew, and I know this because they call him the name about 12 times; and Oscar Issac and Christina Hendricks have some pretty good “blink or you miss em” performances here as well. Albert Brooks as Bernie Ross is probably the most surprising of the whole cast because he has a presence that’s so powerful and ruthless that you actually can believe him as this violent mobster, rather than the voice of Marlon.

Consensus: Drive has moments where it absolutely works with it’s stylish direction from Nicolas Winding Refn, great performances from the cast, especially Gosling, and some bloody and thrilling flashes of violence, but too much of it feels slow and features conversations that are more boring than one you would have with a wall.



  1. Well, I liked it a lot more than this, but let’s focus on where we see eye to eye first. The movie definitely needed more action to push it over the top (and into all time classic range) for me. Especially a driving sequence. What they DID have was awesome, but it was only a couple of scenes. After that they went low key, and it’s noticeable. Budgetary constraints?

    Gossling is excellent.

    But after that, I like this movie way more than this. I would call Refn’s direction “artistic” as opposed to artsy fartsy LOL And there’s a great sense of tension throughout. Plus the great acting you mention and you have a great, great movie.

    • It’s a good movie but there just wasn’t as much as action to really take me over the edge with this film no matter how pretty things looked. Thanks Dan!

  2. I think I’ll love it a lot more than you do… Seriously hyped for this after having read so many positive reviews on it. Should be seeing it this weekend!

  3. Nice review, I liked it a bit more than you, I think the movie is just something we don’t get to see a lot in a mainstream way. Yes Gosling and Brooks are absolutely the best things about this, and I also loved the 80’s style look and sound.

    • The 80’s look was awesome and it’s approach was inspired but it could have just used so much more action to really have me loving it even more. Thanks man!

  4. Dan,

    You and I agree on some points, disagree on others. I really think that “The American” is a good litmus test for this movie. If you like Clooney’s movie, you’ll like this one. Although I didn’t mention it in my review (which you were kind enough to comment on), this movie is definitely being mis-marketed, just as “The American” was. A person’s enjoyment of this movie depends on whether they are willing to enjoy a non-narrative (or lightly-narrative) film. It’s sort of like “A Single Man” from a couple of years ago. Beautiful movie, but not much happens.

    • It’s pretty to look at and features some real moments of beauty, but I think in the end the film is just something to admire rather than enjoy. Thanks!

  5. If I wanted non-stop car chases I would have seen Fast Five. This allowed Gosling a chance to act in between. Without the performances of Gos, Cranston and Brooks who gives a shit what happens in the cars?

  6. See I didn’t think the pauses and silences were awkward at all. I think in most Hollywood films, characters talk WAY more than is normal. I loved how the actors here were acting with gestures and emotion, as opposed to just expository dialouge. Loved the flick, best of the year so far.

    • I hear what you’re saying but after awhile it just started to bother me, especially when the action started to rise because then we didn’t really have much of a story to back it up. Thanks Alex!

  7. Really looking forward to seeing this film. It’s going to be great no matter what, purely for Ryan Gosling – who doesn’t love him!

  8. i will better appreciate this movie when i see it again. i really liked it the first time but, since the trailer didn’t entice me much, i didn’t know what to expect. it’s slow in the beginning but full of character development by gosling. but, like you mentioned, there were some awkward moments. i think mine were every season with carey mulligan, who i thought was miscast for this director and this project. she made the awkward pauses, awkwarder lol. everything else i really liked.

    • I thought she did what she could, but it’s just that the script couldn’t hold up this direction that well and maybe a second viewing will do me a lot better. Thanks Candice!

  9. I loved this and I didn’t think it was slow or boring. Not every movie or characters have to be so articulate and smooth talking that dialogue fills every minute of the film. I loved that the actors were given freedom and time to do what they did.

    • Yeah I guess you’re right Castor, I just didn’t like how everything was all silent when the action could have really kept going instead of all of that. Thanks!

  10. How come no one is talking about the main point of our protagonist and his existentialism? This is a film of layers; it’s nuanced and intelligent under the hood while the cover is a fresh and stylish action film. Also, taste is trivial when it comes to whether this is a good film. If a style isn’t working for you, explain. Slow isn’t always boring, action is always exciting, mellow conversations aren’t horrible because if it’s important to the film than it needs to be there. I’m not being pretentious, just making suggestions.

  11. Excellent review man. In my review I ended finding it to be the perfect movie. Sure the action isn’t there, but the execution of bring together these different tones and themes just blended well together. Visuals and sound played off one another and Refn, while short on the dialogue, followed the template of the silent hero archetype. I think the lack of dialogue helped since the stringent love story angle might have made for cheesy moments.

    • True but for me, I guess I just really wanted more because it didn’t do much but then kind of just bore and bother me in the end. But I like your points Nick! Thank you!

      • I will agree that the trailer is terribly misleading. In terms of action, it was sparse, but playing with the conventions of a car chase movie was fun. The chases weren’t out of place, but felt organic, like it belonged in that particular scene. I just loved the sporadic bits of ultra-violence, kind of kicks you in the chest to shock you. It’s used effectively to frame the characters and isn’t violence for the sake of violence. To each his own though and solid review.

  12. Great review but have to say I loved it a whole lot more. Thought the chemistry between he & Mulligan was palpable. How could you not mention that kiss? (Might be a girl thing).
    Gosling is effortlessly cool in this, well, in anything really and that soundtrack is one of the best in the past 10 years, easily. I’m waiting to see it again & again & again.

  13. I think I enjoyed this film a lot more than you did. I really enjoyed the lack of dialogue followed by bursts of extreme violence. The writing reminded me a bit of a Hemingway short story.
    I guess their could have been a bit more driving but at least he was only driving American cars. 🙂
    We are going to be reviewing it this week.

  14. You did a much better job of explaining the movie than I did in my review. Also, I agree with everything you say here, especially about Mulligan and Gosling having great chemistry, if given the “right material.”

  15. i definitely agree with a lot of what you have to say Dan, especially the paragraph about Ryan Gosling. He definitely makes this movie. it’s not really a heist movie because it’s not about the car chases and the action, which can be a problem if that’s what an audience is expecting.

    but the out-of-nowhere violence is very well done and i kinda liked the talking without talking scenes–for the most part. someone i saw it with said it was the best movie he’d seen in 5 years, and i thought that was a bit of stretch, but it’s definitely a good movie worth seeing. 🙂

  16. Nice one, Dan. I couldn’t get even close to giving this a perfect rating. Good though it is, there’s just too much that doesn’t work for me. Mulligan, for example, is terribly miscast the story is as old as the hills and only the direction disguises it as such. I enjoyed it to an extent (wavering at around 7/10 at the moment), but only that.

  17. I disagree. The silence made this film, the action, though minimal, was intensified by the subtext and general “cool” ness of the characters involved. I think this was by far the best movie of the summer and of the year for that matter.

  18. My main point of contention is that Drive isn’t an action film. Critiquing it on a lack of action seems a little odd to me; it’s a crime noir and a thriller more than a beat-’em-up actionfest. Sure, there are moments of violence, but they’re not the point, they’re just moments along the way and incidents that are part and parcel of the entire conceit of the genre– namely, that something always has to go wrong with the heist/job/plan that pushes the plot along.

    I personally loved the character beats that make up the bulk of the movie’s narrative, particularly those involving Albert Brooks (who’s just perfect here).

  19. I agree with this review. I don’t feel like the movie warrants all the hype that it is receiving from the critics. It is a one-off type of movie that either people really like or really don’t like.

  20. I really enjoyed this film. You hit the nail on the ehad with the gritty, 80s vibe and Refn’ s mood-enhancers. I thought teh film was brilliant in its ability really deliver a nuanced message. Gosling and brooks are teh standouts, no question!

    Check out mine as well.

  21. I can understand why everyone is raving about Drive but for me it was frustrating. I loved the soundtrack and the mood and atmosphere it creates and the chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan and even the ending was right. But why did they have to overcook the violence so much? I mean really… what was the point of that. It’s like cooking a fillet steak and then pouring ketchup all over it. ‘Stop! You’re ruining it!’. I thought Albert Brook’s performance was good but I didn’t buy him as a gangster but that’s not really his fault, I think he was horribly mis-cast. Mulligan too, despite her chemistry with Gosling, she felt too innocent for that character.

  22. The car chase scene was awesome and I think the chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan was fine. The only thing left for them to do was to engage in hot, steamy sex! I knew going into this that it wasn’t going to be an all-out action flick, so the limited action was sufficient for me.

  23. In a strange way Drive felt like a modern day Taxi Driver-which I’m reviewing soon for my upcoming Scorsese blogathon.
    Drive was good, the soundtrack even better for me. To love it I needed more dialogue, and like Ronan I prefer less extreme violence. I agree with your 7/10 rating.Which ever blog I visit, I find a new Drive review, ha ha ( :

  24. Dan, i really like your site and the fact that you pretty much replied to all the comments you received. As for your review of “Drive”, i think it was well written, devoid of spoilers and left the reader with an informed choice of whether to see it or not and why they might or might not like it. good job! As for the movie itself,well i loved it a lot. you might say i have a bigger man-crush on Refn. in the arc of an amazing career, this is his entrance into the Hollywood film, and he has gratefuly made his first American film a love song to Noir’, to Genre’, to the movies he loved as a teen(anything by Michael Mann, or with Steve Mcqueen in it!)when i saw it a second time, i saw it for the beautiful tone-poem homage it is. i wish you would reconsider your “go to the theater”, “rent it” etc. policy. for Gosling’s sake, people, please go to the theater to make your judgement. this is the little 15 million dollar film that could, having taken in 30 million as of this writing. what a great thing for small, non-CGI driven movies…

  25. I think that you and I liked the film for almost exactly opposite reasons. I was much more into the silence than the violence. I’d have been ok with more car scenes if they were like the first one: Smart rather than fast. But then again, I’m not sure if they would have come off as well unless they somehow went from smart to brilliant!

  26. I usually like most of your reviews but with this i would have to disagree. The film had a stylish retro vibe to it that made it cool. It didn’t need fast paced action because thats not what the film is about. Its about a mysterious guy who, is mostly a loner and can drive a car. He has heart but at the same time has a wicked dark side. The soundtrack to the film just caps off the wonderfully shot night scenes of LA. I recommend a rewatch and take it for what it is. How the Oscars have ignored this i will never know.

    Keep up the (usual :)) good job

    Dont forget to check out my film blog.

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