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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Ryan Gosling
Carey Mulligan
Christina Hendricks
Ron Perlman.
Directors
Nicolas Winding Refn.
Screenwriters
Hossein Amini.
Running Time
100 minutes

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Drive
GTA from the director of Bronson


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Plot
By day, ‘Driver’ (Gosling) is a Hollywood stunt man, but by night he makes his real money in the criminal underworld as a top-flight getaway driver. When pretty but very married next-door neighbour Irene (Mulligan) is menaced by hoods, he steps in to protect her and her little boy, only to find himself in an escalating conflict between the local thugs and the Mafia.


Review
Drive
Browse more images »
Alan Ladd's 1953 classic Western Shane is a tale of a man who, trying to escape his past, turns up at a homestead and, in trying to save a woman and her child from black-hats, finds himself drawn inexorably back into the violence he has tried to escape. Drive is very much like Shane, in that it has a strong, silent hero, determined to do right by the innocent while struggling against his character which, as Heraclitus so pithily put it, is also his fate. But it also has a sequence of a man having his cranium reduced to a bloody pulp by an enthusiastically deployed boot à la Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible, someone gets a fork shoved in their face, and a good portion of it is shot in slow motion. It is therefore that much better.

Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish director best known for the Pusher trilogy and 2008’s thug-opic Bronson, is proof of the fact that American pulp is sometimes much better done by Europeans. Think of Paul Verhoeven’s mischievous satires RoboCop and Starship Troopers. Here Refn delivers a gripping, gritty neo-noir drenched in so much mid-’80s styling that the only thing that seems to be missing is Simon Bates thanking us for listening and exhorting us to enjoy the film.

Refn’s skills are not limited to artfully conceived bloodletting: an opening sequence in which our hero practises his trade, transporting a pair of thieves from their place of business to safety, dodging, parking and reversing, is a masterclass of cutting in which the precision of the editing matches that of the driving (and actually it’s far more exciting than the more conventional car chase later in the movie). Meanwhile Newton Thomas Sigel’s sheeny cinematography delivers gorgeous chopper shots of the neon-flecked night-time streets of LA and moody renderings of asphalt car parks, race-tracks and diners. The cumulative and exhilarating sensation is that Walter Hill or William Friedkin made an urban noir sometime back in 1986 and somehow you missed it (and it’s easily as good as The Driver or To Live And Die In LA).

And Refn’s good taste extends to the casting. Carey Mulligan might not have a lot to do, but she looks believably vulnerable; Albert Brooks proves that actors more familiar with comedy can often turn on their menacing side to great effect (it’s he who gets to stick a fork in a guy’s face), while Ron Perlman, well, as usual Ron Perlman just has to turn up, really.

And then there’s Ryan Gosling. Starmaking roles are as rare as actual stars these days, but this just might be one. Gosling pushes the strong, silent (exceptionally pretty) type almost, but only almost, to parody. Toothpick permanently wedged between his teeth (an obvious nod to Clint Eastwood’s ’60s cheroot, and indeed, the ‘no-name hero’ and vengeance fantasy plot reinforce the feeling that this might be as much Western as thriller), he channels the glacially imperturbable attitude of Steve McQueen. He even manages to make what looks like a quilted jacket sporting a yellow scorpion emblazoned on the back — a nod either to Kenneth Anger’s cult 1964 short Scorpio Rising or the fable of The Scorpion And The Frog, depending on who you believe — look like something you might want to check out on your next visit to Topman. An actor hasn’t looked this cool in rubbish duds since Brad Pitt in that teapot dressing-gown in Fight Club. But Drive’s primary pleasure is its astonishingly realised retro style: it’s as if someone distilled a tincture of the ’80s, all cocaine attitude and Giorgio Moroder, and mainlined it into something like the present. Top Gear, then.


Verdict
Oh alright, it ain’t Shane. But it is about as much shamelessly disreputable, stylish, ultra-violent fun you’re going to have at the movies this year.


Reviewed by Adam Smith

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Drive
Empire Star Rating

"I just thought you could get out of here if you wanted. I could come with you. I could look out for you."

Contrasting beautifully understated performances with staccato bursts of brutal, even poetic violence, Drive is a vivid, visceral, nuanced film that's bound to become a classic, and Ryan Gosling is the epitome of quiet cool, flourishing here under the adept direction of Refn. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 12:54, 27 November 2013 | Report This Post


An instant cult classic

Gosling is perfect, Mulligan is wonderfully understated, Cranston is terrific, and Albert Brooks is menacing as hell in this very atmospheric neo-noir masterpiece from Nicolas Winding Refn. One of the best movies of 2011 and way better than The Artist in my opinion. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 21:04, 07 February 2013 | Report This Post


Simple. Atmospheric. Graphic. Moving. A film like no other. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danfacey711 at 18:33, 22 November 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Drive

I've seen this three times now, and it's an amazing experience every time. I'm planning on watching it again soon too. If this isn't an all time classic (like someone said earlier) in 10 - 15 years I'll eat my own face. ... More

Posted by Coyleone at 03:15, 10 November 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Drive

Stand out movie for me. The opening sequence really had me gripped - just down to the lack of unnecessary fluff and a solid matter of fact approach to a getaway that most of the pyro technic infused efforts of recent times have sadly missed. At the end of the sequence, just pulling into the crowded car park, calmly getting out and walking away without any cheese or usual whoop whooping or even a goodbye was movie poetry for me. The character development was also very under stated and... More

Posted by s00tie at 23:46, 09 November 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Drive

Moody, intense and cooler than Fonzie, Drive is Thief meets The Driver. In fact, it’s the best film Michael Mann never made. Virtually a hymn to 80s cool right down to the sub-Tangerine Dream synth-pop score, it’s also a monument to 80s naff-ness; electric pink “handwritten” (ie, illegible) neon credits and the sort of hideous satin bomber jacket and leather driving gloves combo favoured by Alan Partridge – ah-ha! Taciturn Ryan Gosling looks like a cross between a young Peter Stormar... More

Posted by chris kilby at 16:21, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


Classic

A pulpy violent fable told with a European sensibility. This is a masterwork and pretty damn perfect. Gosling is stunning as "Driver" channeling the great male loner performances of the 70's. Refn's masterpiece. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by atom_band at 15:31, 30 October 2012 | Report This Post


A cult classic in the making ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by baseballfuries22 at 13:05, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


Drive

It may not be as engaging as the 80's pulp films that inspired it, but Drive is beautifully filmed, well-acted and perfectly paced.  It's comes across as a subtle, yet violent crime thriller that's bloody, fast, and...well, has a lot of driving. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 23:53, 28 July 2012 | Report This Post


One of the best films of this decade.

Drive showcases Ryan Gosling in his performance and also resurrects those stylish gangster films that we had the pleasure of seeing back in the 90's. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robmarathon at 13:21, 25 July 2012 | Report This Post


Oh please !

It was cool but i got nothing out of it. things kicked off a way to late in the film for my taste. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by antosh25 at 00:50, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Iconoclism deluxe

Finally got round to watching this film,and glad to say I like it alot. I loved the essence and mood of the way this film was created.The film seemed to remind me alot about other films and directing styles.From M.Manns 'Heat' and 'Collateral' works to that of the continued backing music from the likes of Q.Tarantino,with this film also having that hard hitting cult edge of 'Pulp Fiction'. The acting from Gosling,Cary Mulligan and Bryan Cranston were extremely good and enthrallingingly astu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by OPEN YOUR EYES at 14:24, 31 March 2012 | Report This Post


Iconoclism deluxe

I hate films like this. Dark, brooding, slow, with the leading actor possessing about as much character as a dry bit of brown bread. (And don't get me wrong. I like Ryan Gosling). There was not much enjoyment or fun to be had watching this tedious sojourn into the mind of a goodie / baddie (?) who hardly says a word that's interesting, maintains complete hard jawed exposure throughout, but that's it, and has all the intrigue value of corpse. (Actually... I'm wrong... A corpse has far more intr... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ApotheosisX at 20:25, 13 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Brutal, beautiful, brilliant.

L: lukeyboy Right up until the end, I was completely into this film, hook, line and sinker - and when the final scene finally came to pass and the screen went blank for the entire duration of a song, I was frankly - spitting blood! Why do some people feel that a movie is somehow better by not giving it an ending and tying it all up! There were a couple of things that really needed to be tied up, which weren't - and I for one don't buy into this being a cool thing. Other than that (fa... More

Posted by kdevitt at 11:26, 12 March 2012 | Report This Post


Drive Review

A hyper-stylized blend of striking imagery and violence, Drive represents a fully realized vision of arthouse action, and is also my best film of 2011. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 21:49, 06 March 2012 | Report This Post


Great Drive

Great film. Well written and acted. Where was the Oscar love for Albert Brooks? Great brooding old fashioned crime film! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:32, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Great Drive

Great film. Well written and acted. Where was the Oscar love for Albert Brooks? Great brooding old fashioned crime film! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:32, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Drive

What a fantastic piece of ultra violent American pulp. Drive is hugely enjoyable, with the highly talented acting bettered only by the direction. Thats me being a technical nerd. But I'm not one, so I shall simply say that this is one of 2011s most thrilling films ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jimmick007 at 21:53, 19 February 2012 | Report This Post


neutral gear

I'm not convinced about this film. My problem is that if it wasn't directed by Winding Refn or it didn't star two 'cool' actors (Gosling, Mulligan) then I think everyone would simply say it was 'good' not great as is the case. I thought the look and mood of the film was very fresh. But I thought a lot of the plot was childish - making him a Hollywood stuntman had no relevance at all except for the fact he used the prosthetic mask at the end! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lelandmeeks at 08:29, 18 February 2012 | Report This Post


''Just Brilliant.''

Ryan Gosling Delivers THE Performance of Year . Also this is Truly Very Stylish Movie . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 22:30, 17 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Good, but not great...

I liked it, was a very slick modern western and I liked the way as noted in another poster's review they made allusions to how it was a trashy film, but perhaps it was more than that.  However, I am very perplexed at the sheer amount of love it is receiving.  It's nowhere near perfect.  I would say if you think you might be interested then see it.  4 out of 5.  ... More

Posted by Invader_Ace at 17:47, 17 February 2012 | Report This Post


Good, but not great...

Just watched this for the first time. It felt in parts like it was trying to be a real-life Grand Theft Auto, a Michael Mann Heat/Collateral/Miami Vice rip-off or a Tarantino flick. Not as good as any of the afore-mentioned, but still a decent film. Not one I'll be buying though. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guitardave at 00:26, 17 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Brutal, beautiful, brilliant.

I think this will gather speed and emerge as one of the top films of this decade. ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 00:24, 17 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Brutal, beautiful, brilliant.

L: lukeyboy Right up until the end, I was completely into this film, hook, line and sinker - and when the final scene finally came to pass and the screen went blank for the entire duration of a song, I was frankly - spitting blood! some people feel that a movie is somehow better by not giving it an ending and tying it all up!were a couple of things that really needed to be tied up, which weren't - and I for one don't buy into this being a cool thing. Other than that (fairly major)... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 11:12, 16 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Brutal, beautiful, brilliant.

Why do you need things tied up though? It's the other side of the coin, is it not better to have too use your own imagination as to the character's outcome? Like Shane, people will be debating about Driver's future or demise for decades to come; and that's great cinema for you. ... More

Posted by JohnChard at 02:20, 16 February 2012 | Report This Post


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