Director Nicolas Winding Refn won the best director trophy at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for “Drive,” and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a highly stylized take on the traditional heist movie, with a protagonist (Ryan Gosling) who is never named and barely speaks.
There is dialogue in “Drive,” most notably from Albert Brooks playing a local mob kingpin whose chatty, congenial surface hides a razor-ship killer instinct. But for the most part, this is a movie built on visuals, where long gazes and pulsing music substitute a distinct mood instead of the characters explaining to us what’s happening.
The driver works as a mechanic in a broken-down car shop run by Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who’s got a gimpy leg and a chip on his shoulder. Shannon sets him up doing car crashes for Hollywood movies. On his own, the driver has his own side gig: wheel man for robberies and such.
Things grow complicated with the arrival of Irene (Carey Mulligan), the new neighbor in his apartment building. She’s got a young son, a husband in jail and trouble written all over her.
For a guy whose entire existence is about carefully managing risk, having his carefully ordered world twisted inside-out plays hell on the driver. His placid demeanor begins to crack as he finds himself thrown off his own map.
The film feels unstuck from time. Driver wears a gold scorpion jacket that could have come from the late 1950s, and Brooks’ character could have been a contemporary of Bugsy Siegel. The music and credit titles are out of the 1980s, and the cars range from the muscle era to contemporary.
With its sleek throwback atmosphere — think “Miami Vice” put through a time-warp blender — punctuated by moments of horrid violence, “Drive” is a crime drama in overdrive.
Video features are decent enough, though one feels the filmmakers never made an effort to find their high gear when it came to giving the goodies to its audience.
There are four making-of featurettes: “I Drive,” “Under the Hood,” “Driver and Irene” and “Cut to the Chase.” There is also an interview with Refn and … that’s it.
Film: 4.5 Yaps
Extras: 3 Yaps