Our Score: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars
In a darkened room a man speaks into a cell phone. The rules are simple. You have him for 5 minutes. In that time frame he’s yours, no matter what. A minute before and a minute after you’re on your own. Yes or know?
Hollywood stunt driver by day/robbery wheel man at night, our hero – we never learn his name, he’s identified in the credits as DRIVER – (Gosling) is the best of the best when it comes to driving. So much so that his boss, Shannon, (Bryan Cranston) wants to make a NASCAR driver out of him. To get the money for a car Shannon visits Bernie (Brooks) one of the neighborhood “lenders,” a former film producer looking to invest his money wisely. Years ago Shannon ran afoul of Nino (Ron Perlman) one of Bernie’s fellow “lenders,” whose men demonstrated to Shannon that there really IS a substantial penalty on a delinquent loan. While returning home one night DRIVER meets his neighbor, Irene (Mulligan), a single mom who lives with her young son. Chance keeps putting the two in the same places and a friendship begins to grow. But, like many things we approach, things are not as they seem.
Winner of the Best Director prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Drive” is a stylish film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a thriller? A romance? A heist film? All of the above? To be honest, I really don’t know. Though based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis, “Drive” has very little dialogue. The majority of the story is told through camera angles and a musical score that seems to have been composed in 1985. Gosling is serviceable here but he’s not given much of a back story – why does he do what he does? All he does is squint, talk softly and resemble a very young Christoph Waltz? He also spends his time constantly clenching his hand menacingly. As the mom next store, Mulligan is fine. Brooks, who I have followed since he started submitting short films on “Saturday Night Live” in the 70s does a good job as a bad guy, a role he’s also played in “The Simpson’s Movie.” Perlman is suitably evil and it’s always nice to see Russ Tamblyn (Riff in “West Side Story”) on the big screen. This is the good part.
I’m still confused as to what story director Refn wanted to tell. There are some fine chase scenes – perhaps an homage to Peter Yates’ “Bullitt” or William Friedkins’ “The French Connection” or “To Live and Die in L.A.” But there are also a lot of moody close ups accompanied by bad songs right out of 1985 – perhaps an homage to John Hughes? And there’s an awful lot of blood – props to Quentin Tarantino? This is the bad part.
I won’t deny that Renf has a way with a camera and, since I don’t know what his competition was, I will assume that he WAS the best director at Cannes this year. But slow motion action and gallons of blood do not a great film make. In this case, it only makes an average one.