With staccato shots of a cool-looking Ryan Gosling alternately driving snazzy cars, kissing a pretty gal, then committing random acts of violence set to a classical-style score, the trailer of Drive promises a cross between a Tarantino film and a Goodfellas/Godfather soaring epic.

And this film is a bit too-cool-for-school, too knowing – but it also has many unique touches that sets it apart. For instance, car chases usually bore me to tears but the opening scene is packed full of tension and is cleverly executed as Driver (Ryan Gosling) uses his brain rather than his driving prowess to evade the cops. The 80s-style electronic soundtrack perfectly complements this.

Gosling’s Driver is a quiet, softly spoken moody type (the mean comes later), the type who loves the romance of being a stunt driver. He also seems to be a sucker for old-style romances, where the man is the strong, silent type, the rescuer. He sees himself as the avenger, his superhero garb a half-naff, semi-cool satin jacket with a scorpion logo boldly etched on the back, a jacket he seems permanently attached to.

These fantasies are realised when he moves into an apartment next to Irene (Carey Mulligan) and son. Cue long, meaningful looks as a growing romance is evinced by expression rather than dialogue.

Driver’s day job as a mechanic brings him into contact with some seedy types but then he’s comfortable with the darker side of life.

When Mulligan’s husband comes home from prison and is being blackmailed, Driver’s protective instincts (and some would say psychosis) goes into overdrive and soon his day job is melding with his fantasy life as he tangles with some pretty nasty crims (including Ron ‘Hellboy’ Perlman’s Nico).

Everything up to this point is evocative and imaginative but the plot goes rather tits up (if you’ll pardon the pun) when the film descends into stereotype. Thank God for the Jane Eyres and Planet of the Apes of this world, where it is impossible to insert the ubiquitous stripper scene. In a bizarre scenario totally removed from the rest of the film, Driver enters a strip club and proceeds to brutally attack one of the crims while a series of topless girls vacantly look on, their plastic expressions matching their twin appendages.

Sadly, up til this point, Drive was better than this. Its anti-hero protagonist isn’t the most sympathetic characters, and there are plot holes but these are natural in a filmic sense. I want to be entertained not hit over the head with an overly complex plot. Drive had won me over with its originality and scenic beauty so why slot in this pointless scene? It was like I’d inadvertently time-travelled to the neighbouring auditorium and found myself watching The Inbetweeners.

However, the film redeems itself in the final scenes, which are wonderfully acted.

Drive benefits greatly from its fine acting talent. Both Gosling and Mulligan evince sympathy despite their obvious character flaws and have you rooting for them throughout. Gosling in particular pulls off the restrained acting required and a raised brow here and a smirk there often speaks more than a ton of the clichéd type of dialogue you usually find in films of this ilk.

This film may not be for everyone. What I felt was finely nuanced may be seen as slow-moving and pretty eccentric for lovers of fast-paced action flicks, and the violence, when it does come, is certainly realistic and graphic. But for me, Drive is all the better for that.

About The Author

Rhian is a freelance journalist and editor living in London. A film fan for as long as she can remember, her tastes cover the entire spectrum of cinema.