If you’ve been reading the breathless promotions for Drive, you may well be expecting another sub-Fast and Furious romp. Fear not. This is, in fact, the first film in what we hope is a new wave of rarified semi-arthouse petrosexual action cinema.
The nameless “Driver” (Ryan Gosling) is a Hollywood stunt man by day, but earns extra cash in LA’s underworld as a getaway driver. His new neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan) – a beautiful married-to-a-mobster mother of one that he’s got a thing for – starts getting hounded by thugs so “Driver” steps in.
Shortly after, he finds himself with a price on his head. Cue 90 minutes of stuff and humans blowing up with satisfying regularity, right?
Not exactly. Yes, there are lots of car chases. Yes, many things blow up. And yes, it’s brimming with wanton bloodletting. But director, Nicolas Winding Refn delivers the Hollywood stuff with the sort of eighties neon-dappled gloss that makes the whole thing look like a dramatisation of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In a good way.
The casting’s just as pleasing – it’s got that brink-of-caricature flavour that makes Vanishing Point and Bullitt so enduring. A betoothpicked Gosling broods around, occasionally stroking his jaw as if he himself can’t quite believe how handsome he is, while Mulligan is doe-eyed vulnerability incarnate.
Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman (him out of Hellboy) take care of gangster business with aplomb (look out for the fork/face interface), while Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle/Breaking Bad) plays Driver’s gentle but hopeless manager. There’s also a fleeting – and very welcome – glimpse of Christina Hendricks from Mad Men.
Driver’s wheels have also been thoughtfully selected – Gosling pilots a hopped-up primer-grey 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle that requires constant fettling in his boss’ garage, which is stuffed with classic American iron. Nice.
Ultra-violent, ultra-stylish, petrol-headed entertainment with enough arthouse flair to keep it interesting. Go watch it. But don’t expect Fast & Furious 6. And don’t take the kids.