The new movie “Drive” is about a man who will drive anyone anywhere for any purpose provided you abide by his strict set of rules.
If that sounds like the plot of “The Transporter,” it is. But “Drive” is so much more. While “The Transporter” was all flash, fights and explosions, “Drive” is a stylish noir thriller that runs on a very slow burn before it takes off full throttle.
Ryan Gosling stars as the unnamed “Driver,” who spends his days working as a Hollywood stunt driver and as a mechanic for his friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston). Driver is a very quiet, reserved man who only warms up in the presence of next-door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son (Kaden Leos).
Shannon thinks Driver is the best, uhm, driver he’s ever seen and believes they could get rich on the racing circuit — if they only had a car. But race cars cost money so Shannon turns to the local wiseguys for help, friendly Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and his gruff partner Nino (Ron Perlman). Bernie agrees to provide the car for a significant percentage of the take.
Meanwhile, Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) has just returned home after a stint in prison. He wants to go straight but some of his prison acquaintances want him to do a job and are threatening to harm his family. Driver agrees to provide transportation for the heist.
Things go horribly wrong. Driver finds himself in the middle of a very bad situation, but it seems he’s no stranger to violence and danger.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and based on a book by James Sallis, “Drive” starts out in very low gear. It’s so slowly paced and the Driver is such a quiet character that I was beginning to lose interest. But when the story takes off it’s a gripping ride.
Gosling gives a great performance here but the other standout is Albert Brooks. I’ve always liked Brooks’ work but casting him as a Hollywood mobster seemed out of place. And yet he really makes the character compelling.
Did it work for me? I had my reservations in the first hour but “Drive” turned out to be a fine ride.