2011: Director Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks. Screenplay by Hossein Amini.
Page updated 20th Feb 2012

drive poster

The notion of the mysterious quiet loner has been a filmic staple for many years, and will probably never go away. The concept is well established: No name, no dialogue, no emotion, capable of extreme violence, is always underestimated by the bad guys, and is as often as not motivated by a sense of justice, not cash. It is one of those filmic memes that has the power to raise a movie's stature quite beyond the rest of the film, and allow the beguiled viewer a more rose-tinted view of the remainder. When it works, it works fantastically well, but when it doesn't, it's like a lot of barbecue sauce on a bland steak.

This was my difficulty: I wasn't beguiled by Gosling. Without buying into The Man With No Name, the errors were magnified rather than muted, and the movie rapidly descends into a series of shots of Gosling looking very thoughtful. Without him, what remained? Well-known budgetary difficulties and a certain degree of improvisation can often give a movie an edge that it might ordinarily never have, but it can also make a film patchy and inconsistent. While there were occasions of genuine tension and excitement, they were too few and far between. This was a shame as Drive has a lot going for it. LA at night can never fail to be atmospheric, the underplayed car chases were terrific, and both Christina Hendricks and Oscar Isaac doing a lot with very little was delightful to behold, and Ron Perlman is good in everything he does. There were occasions when the slow pace with Gosling did work, but those should have been a shift to a welcome slow pace in between the action, rather than the tempo of the film itself.

Verdict: If you like Ryan Gosling looking thoughtful and favour the sort of style over content we saw in the 1980's, then this is definitely for you. If you want more from your leading man than strong unblinking indifference with potential for extreme violence, go elsewhere.

Star rating

One Star: Pretty dire, but with one particular feature that might be worth watching it for.
Two Star: Peppered with good parts, but they they just don't connect. Shame - might have been excellent.
Three Star:Six: Entertaining movie, that while holding interest, has small annoyances that are aggravating in that they could so easily been avoided.
Seven: Everyone's singing from the same song-sheet. Technically excellent, but something undefinable lacking.
Eight: We're really kicking, now - fizz and excitement, eyes riveted to the screen.
Nine: Outstanding and Original piece of moviemaking that will inspire others for years
Ten: Groundbreaking Movie event that comes once every decade, if we're lucky