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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Drive | Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Carey Mulligan | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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He doesn’t even have a name, just an assignment.  You can hire him to drive a getaway car and he’s yours for exactly five minutes during the heist.  After that, you’re on your own.  Known only as Driver (Ryan Gosling) he knows every street in Los Angeles and can successfully navigate away from and out of police chases.

He’s worth every penny of his fee.

Sometimes he’s a stunt driver for movies; sometimes he’s a garage mechanic.  Most times it’s hard to get more than a few words out of him.  Everyone with a “transportation job” knows how to find him.  Life is just a series of sequences that need to unfold.  Then, Driver meets a woman.

She’s his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) a single mom right down the hall from his apartment.  She has a child, Benicio (Kaden Leos) who does not look like her and as it turns out, an imprisoned husband with the improbable name of Standard (Oscar Isaac).

Shannon (Bryan Cranston) is Driver’s co-hort and partner, a guy with shady connections to financial underwriting in the form of Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman).  Shannon persuades Bernie to finance a race car, using The Driver’s skills as a selling point.  Nino runs a pizzeria as a front for less-than legal money-making opportunities.  Shannon’s previous run-in with Nino’s people resulted in a broken pelvis.

Irene and Benicio make Driver smile, which he almost never does.  An attraction forms.  Then Irene’s husband Standard, gets out of jail, and complications arise which are both emotion and money-based.  Danger follows Standard, shadowing Irene and her son as well,

A failed heist with Standard (assistance from Driver only comes with an assurance of safety for Benicio and Irene) leads to a collision course between Shannon, Bernie, Nino and a few others that don’t get to leave the way they came in.  Driver proves he is capable of explosive rage with the ultimate consequences attached.

Gosling has a silent intensity that makes his character’s ultra-violent outbursts even more unsettling.  Although Carey Mulligan’s role calls for mostly standing still and smiling, we see something in her character that makes it understandable that Driver would want to smile back.

Albert Brooks is not the genial nebbish you remember from Broadcast News or Lost in America.  Here he pulls out Bernie’s innate sinister side, hiding behind a smile that is chilling in itself.  Ron Perlman uses his unique facial features to underscore his character’s brute force and augments it with a growl of a delivery that would make you think twice about ordering a pizza from Nino’s.  Bryan Cranston proves his considerable acting versatility once again, transcending previous comic performances to flesh out a small-time operator without blinking.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher, Pusher II) does not push here.  There’s action and it takes time to build; he wisely allows for that in a way that shows how sudden, violent and life-changing events can take place when there’s money to be made, borrowed, or stolen.  Out of boredom, viciousness; out of complacency, overkill.  Something to think about and Refn drives that message home quietly with Drive.

The script by Hossein Amini (Jude) uses action, nuance and gesture in place of a lot of words, and it’s effective.  We observe and discover without a lot of exposition to tell us what we should be observing and discovering.  Amini gives us that intellectual credit and it is appreciated.

You can probably guess that Drive is not a joyous film about life-affirming principles espoused by an enlightened microcosm.  It does not steer us in the direction of neat resolutions or profound revelations, but cruises down streets best left in shadows.

Happily Ever After is not even listed on this map, but it’s still a trip worth taking.

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