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Drive Thrills Audiences

Courtney Eckerle | Thursday, September 22, 2011

“Drive” is the kind of movie that makes you feel at least 45 percent cooler as you’re leaving the theater.

Ryan Gosling plays a wunderkind, unnamed Hollywood stunt driver by day, and a heist getaway man by night. When he falls for the pretty and troubled young mother next door (Carey Mulligan), chaos is introduced into his regimented life-style.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn masterminded this ‘80s-infused noir drama, set in the streets of L.A., which are shown off in the film’s opening sequence.

The soundtrack is a huge asset to the film, and sets the tone without taking over the movie. Featuring Cliff Martinez, former drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the music is subtle but powerful. Such music is a difficult feat for any movie, let alone one in the action/suspense genre — which usually tosses subtlety out the window of a cop car while doing a triple flip in the air.

But this reflects Gosling’s mysterious, subtle and powerful character.

Gosling’s character is a minimalist, who lives in an empty apartment, save for a table and chair. Gosling’s character speaks maddeningly little. “I’m a driver,” he says, and he really doesn’t need another word. His character speaks through distinct James Dean-esque actions — like making a fist with his leather driving gloves or chewing on an ornately carved toothpick. It adds suspense to the movie, because every gesture and shot is aimed for maximum impact.

Bryan Cranston, who earned his post-“Malcolm in the Middle” street cred on AMC’s hit show “Breaking Bad,” plays the scrappily lovable Shannon. Unlucky in his past dealings in the underbelly of society, Shannon has somehow scored the trust and loyalty of Gosling, and arranges ways for him to use his talent.

Albert Brooks (think the voice of Marlin in “Finding Nemo”) is an inspired piece of casting, He stars as the calculated local mob boss who takes an interest in Gosling. Christina Hendricks, of “Mad Men,” has a small role as a washed up mobster. Hendricks is surprisingly poignant, and brings attention to a character that would usually be a throwaway.

Gosling’s interest in Mulligan’s character and her son leads him to break his normal heist rules, and he ends up getting tangled in a deadly situation. The one hang up is the film’s descent into a blood-orgy of epic proportions, which, depending on if you’re a Tarantino fan or not, could make or break “Drive” for you. 

Contact Courtney Eckerle at cecker01@saintmarys.com