Drive (BluRay Review)
In Los Angeles, a stuntman/mechanic (Ryan Gosling) has a second job at night as a getaway driver for petty crimes. In the opening moments of the movie we witness just how precisely he operates. His view on this kind of work is simple and by the book. He sets a certain time limit for the robbers, if they go past that time he leaves. Driver is a genius behind the wheel, he’s like a robot who can predict every move the police might make. Whether he’s outrunning the law or performing crashes on movie sets, he always comes out clean.
Shannon (Bryan Cranston) is Driver’s friend/boss at the local auto body shop where he works part time. The two proteges also help set up stunts on films for extra cash. Shannon’s latest dream venture is buying a pro racecar to fix up for Driver to compete in. The only trouble is he needs a large amount of cash, so he goes to Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman) two underworld figures that have bad news written all over them. Rose agrees to the proposition but makes it clear to Shannon that if Driver doesn’t make good as a racer, there will be repercussions but Shannon assures him that the kid is the best of the best.
Driver lives next door to Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). She and Driver seem to have an instant connection, they never say much to each other but there’s an acknowlegement. One day Driver runs into Irene at the local supermarket, her car is overheated, so he takes her home and helps bring her groceries in. The two slowly begin a relationship, and Driver who has always been a loner that doesn’t say much, enjoys spending time with Irene and Benicio. When Irene later lets Driver know that her estranged husband Standard (Oscar Isaacs) will be getting out of jail and returning home soon, he tries to let her go but he is clearly upset by this break in their deepening bond.
While on his way home one night, Driver finds Standard beaten up in the basement of the apartment complex. He learns that he owes money to his old criminal organization who have increased the debt to an unreasonable amount. Driver decides to help Standard out by driving for him on some robberies. He also makes a deal with the lowlife thug Standard is dealing with to leave him and his family alone once it’s paid off. The day of the pawn shop robbery, everything goes bad and Standard is killed on his way out to the getaway car. Driver and Blanche (Christina Hendricks), the lowlife’s girlfriend who has tagged along, blast out of there but are soon tailed by another car, driven by someone who gives Driver a deadly run for his money. Luckily after a thrilling, high speed chase, Driver and Blanche get away but are soon tracked to a hotel room where all hell breaks loose. Now Driver is in deeper trouble than he ever imagined and stuck with a huge cache of mob money with Irene and Shannon caught in the middle.
Throughout the movie, Driver, who is very quiet and reserved, speaking mostly through his actions, seems to slowly transform into a kind of furious monster. There’s something quite ugly boiling under his All-American, blond haired/blue eyed stoic surface which we never fully learn about. He is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde and when the other dark side is unleashed it’s pretty disturbing. The distinct style of cinematic graphic violence is also very brutal. People’s heads get crushed, blown apart, bodies are slashed with razors, stabbed with forks and it’s all done shockingly quick.
This film has often been compared to Walter Hill’s The Driver (1978) and films by Michael Mann such as Thief. I’d also add there’s a bit of Manhunter and Heat in there as well. This vision of L.A. seems like a waking dream and is beautifully photographed by Newton Thomas Sigel setting a sleak backdrop for the underworld storyline set up. The retro synth soundtrack and score by Cliff Martinez definitely recalls the Tangerine Dream sound of Mann’s early work as well. I grew up on 80s New Wave so this sound appealed to me greatly. It’s the perfect type of music to crank up on your car stereo as you cruise around.
Drive is a stylish, hard boiled, fuel injected crime-thriller filled with intense performances, badass action sequences and an interesting modern retelling of the Shane storyline, with Ryan Gosling as the kind hearted stranger whose other side is a deadly scorpion that helps the damsel and her family in distress from those who want to do them harm.
BLU RAY REVIEW
Video: Presented in (2:40:1) Anamorphic Widescreen. 1080p High-Definition.
Audio: English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound.
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH.
– I Drive: The Driver – Interviews with Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Carey Mulligan, and Screenwriter Hossein Amini.
– Driver and Irene – The Relationship: A closer look at the two characters motivations and how they were developed.
– Under The Hood: Screenwriter Hossein Amini and the actors talk more about the origin of the film.
– Cut To The Chase: Stunts: Get a closer look at the amazing stuntwork performed by Driver.
– Drive Without a Driver: Interview with Director Nicolas Winding-Refn: The film’s story origins and production is explained in detail by Nicolas Winding-Refn.
FINAL WORD: This Blu Ray release of DRIVE is stellar in sound and visuals. An audio commentary by the director and screenwriter would’ve been a welcomed addition but besides that it’s as good as it gets for a home video presentation of a modern movie. Highly recommended to Blu Ray enthusiasts!