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[Rating: 3/5]

For about 90 of its 100 minutes, “Drive” is an almost perfect artsy action flick.  Ryan Gosling plays a man with no name who is a stunt driver/mechanic during the day and, occasionally, a getaway driver at night.  He is forever calm and calculating; he never says a thing unless it’s absolutely necessary.  You get the feeling – and “Drive” is all about feeling – that he is such an excellent driver because he understands exactly how an automobile works, and there is no room for ambiguity or error.  The flip side of this is that he doesn’t do so well with messy situations involving real people and relationships.  He’s a lot sexier, but actually, Gosling’s character here isn’t that different from the one he plays in “Lars and the Real Girl.” Down the hall lives Carey Mulligan and her young son.  They need saving. Gosling takes them on a magical ride to a secret place, and they are bonded.  Things have the potential to get complicated when Mulligan’s husband gets out of prison, but when he gets in trouble with the friends he made in prison, it looks like Mulligan and son need saving again, so really, it’s not all that complicated.

Sometimes “Drive” feels like “Taxi Driver;” they’re both films about men who feel in control when behind the wheel, and seldom anywhere else.  They’re also both about men looking for someone to save; in a world that doesn’t really operate like a fairy tale.   The difference is that “Drive” is sympathetic to its character where “Taxi Driver” isn’t; Nicholas Winding Refn really seems to want the world to be more fairy-tale like, and he sees the heroic in his protagonist’s noble quest, not just the psychotic.

But just when you feel completely drawn in to the not-completely-real world Gosling lives in, it all comes abruptly to a halt.  Gosling saves the girl from the villain (played chillingly straight by legendary comedian Albert Brooks, but, according to said villain, it’s at the cost of his own life.  This is where, in fantasy and most movies, the hero outsmarts the villain and defeats him in an epic battle sequence.  Instead, “Drive” pulls the rug out from under us just when it had us convinced it was a flying carpet; the blood gets shed in about half a second, and then the film is over.

I liked this film.  I liked its style and sensibility, the performances were great, and it established an admirable tone that it held for a long time.  But I found the ending terribly unsatsifying.  It was all over far too quick.  I hate to say it, but I wanted the drama,the big ending, the final car chase.  I wanted Brooks to be killed with that fancy knife he kept in that fancy case.  “Drive” was a rare case where I enjoyed almost every minute of the film, but walked away from it feeling unsatisfied.

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  1. I agree the character shares some similarities to “Lars”. He is sedated, calm, and only speaks when necessary. The elevator scene changes all that and it’s like a switch was flipped and he could tell just by the reaction Irene gave him as the doors closed.

    Really enjoyed the film.

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