Ryan Gosling Drives.  That Is All.

Main Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

I freely admit that my devotion to particular performers has on more than one occasion led me to watch crap movies.  I don’t regret my devotion, since there’s usually at least a few redeeming scenes with said performers.  Unfortunately Drive is bad enough that it has made me question whether I can in good conscience count Ryan Gosling among the favored few whose movies get preferential treatment.  Actually that isn’t quite true; I absolutely know that Ryan Gosling movies no longer get preferential treatment.

Drive doesn’t even really have a decent premise.  Gosling plays a mechanic and stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for hire.  I would tell you his name but he doesn’t have one.  He meets and begins to have feelings for a new neighbor only to see her husband released from prison.  Being the awesome guy he is he tries to help the husband get out from under some slammer-related business with his awesome driving skills.  Awesome.

Holy hell this movie sucks.  It has more problems than I could possibly cover here so I’ll stick to a few of the highlights.  First, there’s almost no dialogue.  Now that isn’t an inherent issue, a good movie might be able to pull it off.  This isn’t a good movie; it’s just one that has nothing to say.  But the camera sure does linger on Gosling a lot.  When he isn’t doing anything.  Or saying anything.  The camera likes to watch him drive a car!  And stare pensively!  For long periods of inexplicable time!  Peh.

Then we have the “action”.  The car chases are pathetic.  Gosling shows no emotion during any scene at all, even when he’s about to be caught or murdered.  Watching a robot drive a car fast is not the least bit thrilling.  The special effects aren’t even decent.  The only real car action comes during the filming of a scene in which Gosling is the stunt driver.  Big whoop.

But there is other action to be had in this “thriller” – there’s the violent kind.  Slasher level violence is sprinkled liberally throughout the proceedings.  One minute we’re watching Gosling and his adorable neighbor (played gamely by a completely wasted Carey Mulligan) stare wordlessly at each other, the next we’re watching him stomp in someone’s skull.  Really watching it.  The violence is staged to be shocking but all it really accomplishes is being gross.  Someone gave the fake blood guy way too big a budget.

The film’s single redeeming feature is the character of Shannon played by Bryan Cranston.  He’s a small time crook that gets in over his head and he actually manages to form a semi-coherent character out of whole cloth.  Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman do not fare as well as the head bad guys.  They’re caricatures.  They try, but there’s nothing they can do to make these characters palatable.

Drive doesn’t know what it wants to be.  Is it a pretentious character study where we examine Gosling as he wordlessly goes about his boring, tawdry business?  Is it an action movie with car chases and bad guys?  Is it a study in poorly executed gore?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t seem to know.  The result is that it’s nothing but a mess – slow, obnoxious, no character development, no good action and some gore that looks like it came from another movie.  It’s crap.  I’m embarrassed for Gosling and Mulligan. Cranston gets the movie one star and only because I’m being generous.  1 star out of 5 – avoid Drive like the plague.

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