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The Fast and the Nefarious

Drive (2011)

Richard Foreman Jr./FilmDistrict

In spite of its high-octane title, “Drive” is neither fast nor furious. To be precise, this movie about a Hollywood stuntman and part-time getaway-car driver has only two car chases throughout its duration. The first is followed by an excruciatingly slow and wooden soap-operatic love triangle, and the second by a sporadically gruesome noir. The film has the glossy Hollywood polish, but also the intimacy of a chamber piece — complete with a corny Eurotrashy trance score. The groupthinking hipster critical mob is probably sparing no lavish praises trying to prove street cred and manhood. We, on the other hand, will just tell it like it is.

The film toys with your expectations a bit with its opening car chase — that is, if you are in fact expecting a stock action flick. Apparently, the marketing folks working on it would like you to think that’s what it is, given that a clip from the scene is available on YouTube. You have Ryan Gosling at the wheel, staving off the police and shuttling two robbers safely from the scene of the crime to a crowded parking garage. He meets and soon becomes taken with his next-door neighbors, mom Irene (Carey Mulligan), son Benicio (Kaden Leos) and, shortly thereafter, dad Standard (Oscar Isaac) upon his return from prison. Standard must rob a pawn shop to pay off some debt, and who better to serve as his getaway driver? But everything goes off track because they’ve been set up.

It’s understandable that the hipster critical mob would put its stamp of approval on this one. Let’s face it, any man who doesn’t hit the gym daily and nosh on protein shakes would secretly wish he could be like Mr. Gosling’s character: scrawny but nevertheless strong, silent and not-to-be-messed-with.

Hossein Amini’s adaptation of James Sallis’s novel is especially admirable in its shrouding of the character in mystery and succinctly hinting at his past with minimal exposition. It also seems that Mr. Amini and director Nicolas Winding Refn have really taken Mr. Sallis’s general anti-Hollywood sentiments to heart and made an offbeat independent action flick (if there is ever such a thing) in the B-movie spirit of Carolco. You could probably sneak “Drive” into VH1’s next “I Love the ’80s” marathon without anyone noticing.


Opens on Sept. 16 in the United States and on Sept. 23 in Britain.

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; written by Hossein Amini, based on the book by James Sallis; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Matthew Newman; music by Cliff Martinez; production design by Beth Mickle; costumes by Erin Benach; produced by Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, John Palermo, Gigi Pritzker and Michel Litvak; released by FilmDistrict (United States) and Icon (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 18 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Ryan Gosling (Driver), Carey Mulligan (Irene), Bryan Cranston (Shannon), Christina Hendricks (Blanche), Ron Perlman (Nino), Oscar Isaac (Standard) and Albert Brooks (Bernie Rose).


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