Ryan Gosling stars as a Hollywood stuntman, who moonlights as a no-nonsense getaway driver for criminals in Drive, a movie that could just take the cake as the most violent film of 2011.

When his neighbour Standard (Oscar Isaac) runs into trouble, resulting in threats to his wife Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son, Benicio, the Driver offers his services to help Standard pay off his debt. Naturally, the heist doesn’t go as planned, and Driver is sucked into a complicated world of hurt.

As the Driver (the character’s first name is never revealed, keeping that extra layer of distance between him and the audience), Gosling is permanently clad in a white bomber jacket adorned with a golden scorpion (its symbolic meaning is revealed at the end), with a toothpick clenched between his teeth, the actor seems to channel the same cool, silent stoicism of Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen, never uttering a word unless he’s issuing a threat or expressing concern for his Irene and her son. He’s more deliberate than your modern action heroes, choosing to remain in the shadows over loud, messy confrontations. By day, he splits his time as a stunt driver on a Hollywood set and working in a garage with his amiable mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston).

There are no Michael Bay sequences here; the Driver’s car chases are as minimal as the dialogue. The cars are not excessively flashy and bursts of speed are only employed to shake pursuers before retreating. After five minutes of driving crooks around, the Driver will abandon the car and his human passengers regardless of their location, a rule he strictly adheres to.

The combat sequences are equally short-lived. The violence is brutal and unflinching (unlike the audience). Characters that were harmless in the first half of the film, like pizzeria owner Bernie Rose (a menacing Albert Brooks) and the Driver make good on their threats by offing their opponents by stomping a man’s face in or jabbing a fork into an eye socket with cool apathy. It’s one thing to imply that someone has a dangerous reputation, it’s another thing to witness it.

Unfortunately, the sparse dialogue and vicious cruelty makes it difficult for the audience to form an emotional connection with the characters. That doesn’t mean that the movie is devoid of emotion though.

To balance the scales out a little, vulnerability and tenderness are introduced into the film by the Driver’s affectionate relationship with Irene and Benicio. The chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan is also sweetly tender, their displays of affection subdued. As cold-blooded and impassionate as he is to everyone else, he appears to be genuinely fond of the mother and child, and is prepared to keep them safe at all costs.

The film’s look draws heavily from the stylish neo-noir movies of the 1980s; from the retro synth-pop soundtrack and neon-lit buildings of LA to the bright pink font of the opening credits, making the movie appear simultaneously slick and gritty.

While Drive features a great visual style, and top-notch performances from its actors, the strong violence means this movie is not for the faint-hearted.

Movie: Drive
ating: 3.5/5
Opens: Nov 3
Duration: 100 min
Language: English
Age Rating: M18 – Violence and gore
Genre: Crime, Drama

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston