Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks, and Ron Perlman

Every once in a while, a movie comes along, and you don't quite know what to make of it.  You know you enjoyed it, but you feel that something is missing that's keeping you from running to the mountaintops shouting how great the movie is.  You wonder if it could have been just a little better.  Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive is one of those films.  Don't get me wrong.  Drive is a great film, but the screenplay by Hossein Amini could have been stronger.

Driver (Ryan Gosling) works in Shannon's (Bryan Cranston) body shop as a mechanic.  On the side, he does driving stunts for big Hollywood productions and moonlights as a getaway driver in heists throughout Los Angeles.  Shannon gets Driver the financial backing he needs to leave the life of petty crime behind and become a professional racer.  Driver is being backed by Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), a notorious mobster throughout Southern California.  Meanwhile, Driver gets involved with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), who happens to be married to a man who will soon be paroled. 

When Irene's husband Standard (Oscar Isaacs) gets out of jail, he soon meets Driver and has no problem showing that he does not like him.  However, he has bigger problems.  He borrowed protection money from some dangerous folks while in prison, and they're now collecting this debt.  Standard is threatened to steal $40,000 from a pawn shop in Southern California and reaches out to Driver for help.  Driver, who must harbor some guilt for sleeping with Standard's wife, decides to help Standard out.  A woman named Blanche (Christina Hendricks) is also working this job alongside Standard and Driver.  During the heist, everything predictably goes wrong, and lots of blood is shed in what the Driver sees as a setup.  A contract is ultimately put out on Driver.  As he does what he must to survive, Driver soon learns that the stolen money traces back to Jewish mobster Nino (Ron Perlman), Bernie's partner.

When I first heard Ryan Gosling was the star of Drive, I got a little worried.  Young Hercules playing a kickass getaway driver in a crime drama doesn't seem very promising on paper.  Much to my surprise, Gosling delivers a great performance as Driver.

Drive is a gritty, tense action drama that gradually builds into a bloodbath throughout Los Angeles.  The pace of Drive is similar to that of Michael Mann's Heat, though the film is nowhere near as good as this beloved ultra-violent crime film.  The film is dominated by slow, quiet moments during which more meaning can be derived from what's not said than from what is.  There's great filmmaking here from Refn that really builds a lot of tension throughout the movie.  However, those scenes when Gosling channels his inner demon make the film.  He becomes a monster on screen that will literally do whatever it takes to survive.  The dark side that Gosling brings to life in Driver is what makes the movie great.

The only problem with Drive is that it's entirely too predictable.  Hossein Amini's screenplay offers nothing more than the typical plot for a crime drama.  The protagonist is a bad guy who does work for some other bad guys.  When they betray him, he kicks their asses one by one until they're all dead.  For all the hype, there should've been a much better plot.  Maybe Amini needed some liquid inspiration during the writing process.

Ryan Gosling has had a great year.  He's been in a great romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love.  He's going to be starring opposite George Clooney and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Ides of March (which is getting a lot of award buzz), and he has one awesome action flick in theaters now—Drive.  Despite my issues with the predictable screenplay, Gosling's Drive is a pretty damn good movie.  It gets a 0.03% rating.  I hope to see some more great films from him in the future.