I had been recommended this action/crime movie by an arthouse fan, and was unsure of what to expect. I watched this on a plane so the experience was definitely suboptimal, but I enjoyed Drive all the same.
Gosling plays a silent, stoic protagonist who is the diametric opposite of Hollywood’s loud, aggressive preference. His manner is somewhat childlike at time; he helps others and doesn’t complain, even assisting the husband (Oscar Isaac, from Sucker Punch) of the woman (Cary Mulligan, from Never Let Me Go) he’s interested in. But when things start going bad, this unnamed protagonist becomes a brutal, efficient killer.
While the storyline is superficially pure Hollywood formula, the acting is brilliant, and the direction deliberate, artistic, and assured. There is some pretty brutal violence and incidental nudity, but the movie feels like an arthouse drama that aims for emotional plausibility. The romance is underplayed, and the relationships between the characters (even the mobsters Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) indicate depth and verisimilitude.
It’s hard to put my finger on why the movie is nothing like the typical action film while looking exactly like an action film. I suppose the opening sequence is quite indicative: Gosling evades police with low-key smarts rather than crazy driving.
Fans of typical action movies might be mystified by Drive, but it’s a treat for those looking for something familiar but markedly different.