Drive takes us on a captivating ride

By Vivian Pencz

Grade: B

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that does its very best to seduce you, but nevertheless ends up keeping you at an arm’s length. Nicolas Refn’s Drive is one of those almost, but not quite brilliant teases.

Inspired by art house and grindhouse classics alike, Drive stars Ryan Gosling as an unnamed stunt driver by day, getaway driver by night, who gets mixed up in both a heist gone wrong and a tricky relationship with a married mother, played sweetly by Carey Mulligan.

This genre-bender has several strengths: deliciously clever and gripping action sequences; an unexpected electro house soundtrack of glittery synths; artful cinematography with lots of film noir shadowplay; and a dreamy pensiveness welded with gritty realism.

But it’s Ryan Gosling’s nuanced performance that elevates Drive to nearly profound heights. Barely speaking but oozing a morose, sexy coolness, Gosling channels the lonely spirits of Martin Sheen and Clint Eastwood, although the driver’s under-the-surface tension is pure Travis Bickle.

Since Gosling’s role is mostly silent, he expresses this tension with a remarkably haunting gaze resembling the thousand-yard stare, a possible clue about the driver’s enigmatic past and violent present.

But Drive’s steadfast adherence to its classic influences like Taxi Driver and Le Samourai is where it takes a wrong turn. Refn’s too faithful imitation of those films’ storylines and themes, and of infuriatingly outdated grindhouse conventions like the objectification of women, is what ultimately taints a movie that could have been great. Even that awesome scorpion jacket is an obvious nod to cult flick Scorpio Rising.

The fact of the matter is: it’s been done before. But Drive is still worth the ride.

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