DVD Review by Kam Williams
Headline: This Critic’s Favorite Low-Budget Adventure of 2011 Comes to DVD
This riveting cat-and-mouse thriller was the #1 artsy adventure on my annual Top 100 List for 2011. The film represents another solid outing by Ryan Gosling in which the underappreciated actor further establishes himself as among the best actors yet to win an Academy Award.
Here, he plays a Hollywood stuntman whose secret dream is to save enough money to become a professional race car driver on the NASCAR circuit one day. When not executing dangerous rollovers on movie sets, he supplements his meager income by moonlighting as a getaway driver.
That modus operandi works well for the unnamed loner we’ll call Driver so long as he religiously protects his anonymity. But complications ensue soon after his Achilles heel, an attractive woman, rears its pretty head in the person of Irene (Carey Mulligan), a flirtatious neighbor living right down the hall.
Driver naturally assumes her to be a single-mom, since she shares the apartment only with her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Sparks fly, and they start spending quality time together, almost like a family.
But before their budding friendship has a chance to blossom any further, Irene admits not only that she’s married, but that her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is about to be paroled from prison.
Turns out that the ex-con wants to go straight but is being pressured to pull one last heist by a loan shark (James Biberi) he’s deeply indebted to. Against his better judgment, Driver decides to help by driving a getaway car for Standard.
Unfortunately, the robbery goes horribly wrong, and Driver ends up in sole possession of the million dollar take. He subsequently finds himself being hunted by an army of vengeful mobsters threatening to harm him, Irene and the boy unless the cash is delivered.
The chase is on and, again and again, Driver makes the most of opportunities to demonstrate his elusive skills behind the wheel. The slippery fugitive is forced to fight on occasion, too, and he’s not one to shy away from a good rumble either.
Based on the James Sallis best-seller of the same name, Drive is an alternately atmospheric and grisly crime saga which devotes as much attention to character development as to gruesome action sequences. The film was directed by Denmark’s Nicolas Winding Refn who boldly blends elements of the seemingly-incompatible blood sport and romance genres.
The picture features a profusion of spellbinding performances besides Gosling’s, most notably Carey Mulligan as the femme fatale, as well as Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as a couple of the scariest villains to grace the screen this year. Provided you have a strong stomach for gore, don’t miss this novel cinematic treat offering both an adrenaline fix and a compelling love story.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, ethnic slurs, nudity and graphic violence.
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: An interview with director Nicolas Winding Refn, plus 4 featurettes: “I Drive,” “Under the Hood,” “Driver and Irene,” and “Cut to the Chase.”