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Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan are great actors. They have no chemistry in this.

The cars, the cast…the opening chase! It’s like I’m a kid in the ‘70s watching one of those car chase movies I thought was so cool. I could even forgive the horrible opening song, which sounded like bad ‘80s music.

Danish director Winding Refn gave us the engrossing film Bronson (rent this for the brilliant Tom Hardy performance), as well as Valhalla Rising and Pusher. I was looking forward to this ride.

Gosling plays a character that has three jobs. He’s a car mechanic, stuntman on films, and a getaway driver for criminals (guess which one he probably doesn’t report to the IRS). Gosling played the role low-key, which worked. At first. When he meets neighbor Carey Mulligan, there are sparks. That’s when I don’t buy his quiet guy routine. He surely knows he’s good looking. He does car stunts on Hollywood films, and surely meets women there. Why is it like he’s a 9th grader on his first date?

Now, when Mulligan has a husband that gets out of prison, the filmmaker goes back to getting it right. There’s a bit of tension in the conversation where he and Gosling meet for the first time in the hallway. This guy makes it known that he’s aware Gosling has been hanging around his wife. Yet, it’s not this over-the-top Hollywood scene where the guy gets in his face and tells him to “stay away from my wife or I’ll kill ya!”

He begrudgingly thanks Gosling for helping his wife out. Yet when he gets into trouble with other criminals, I don’t buy Gosling helping him out of his jam. It doesn’t fit his character. We earlier saw him sit there with a stopwatch when the thieves are robbing a place. He’s so strict about how and who he works with, and tells them if they aren’t out by a certain time, he takes off without them. So why is he doing this pawnshop robbery with a guy he dislikes? Oh, that’s right. It’s because he likes his wife, and he’s a nice guy. Nothing more chivalrous than helping a gals husband commit a crime, or stomping a persons head in the elevator (I probably should’ve said “spoiler alert” for that last line). That also brings up a pet peeve I have in movies like this. Audiences always gravitate towards rooting for the protagonist. They seem to forget – this guy is a criminal! Who cares that he’s nice to a woman. Not to mention the fact that, he’s probably nice to her because he wants to take her to bed. How does that make him a person to root for?

The cast gets even more interesting when we meet Gosling’s boss at the garage – Bryan Cranston. He walks with a mysterious limp. It’s always intriguing when a character does that (think Robert Shaw in The Sting).

Cranston introduces Gosling to some local thugs – Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks. Brooks wants to invest in a race car and have Gosling drive it. That will be a 4th job for him. His calendar is going to be packed!

There are many interesting scenes and bits of dialogue in this movie, but as a whole, it just doesn’t work completely. It seems they should’ve really tried to capture a more realistic way people interact with each other. For example, as much fun as I had with Albert Brooks character (he’s getting early Oscar buzz), it seemed phony to me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t kind of fun to see Brooks stab a few people.

I could’ve used a few less of the clichés, a few better scenes with dialogue and not just silence. Especially when I think about a scene I loved so much. It has Gosling going to the set of a movie he worked on, just to pick up a rubber mask. He puts it over his head and goes to a restaurant the gangsters are hanging out in. He just peers through the stained glass window on the door to assess the situation. It was brilliant. And the filmmaker definitely created the mood and atmosphere perfectly for this film. Perhaps he should’ve ditched the ‘80s music and poor writing.

The movie still gets 2 ½ stars out of 5, since I was entertained for much of the time. Drive just never shifts into high gear.





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