Drive is slick. Spy Hunter slick. Every frame oozes class, bleeds cool. Newman cool, McQueen cool, O’Neal cool. Ryan Gosling is their heir apparent, a silent human machine, driving gloves and satin jacket. His ice-cold protagonist is a grease monkey in the morning, stuntman in the afternoon and getaway driver by night.
His mantra is Eastwood, “If I drive for you, you give me a time and place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun…I drive.”
You better believe it. The opening getaway is peerless all sub-bass and cut glass lighting. “Tick of the Clock” by “The Chromatics” is the new “Force Marker”: an unstoppable juggernaut of a track. It’s like watching an L.A. version of “Das Boot” police cruisers prowl like destroyers, police scanners promise impending doom like sonar. The Driver doesn’t break sweat-just chews his toothpick and turns off the lights. He is “The Terminator” if Lance Henriksen got the part back in 84.
We hold our breath for an eternity. The music slopes in and out of the shadows like a Heidi Fleiss hooker. The engine explodes. We’re in heaven. What a start, what a movie. Nicolas Winding Refn has fine tooled an American classic European style. This is Thief, To Live & Die In L.A. and The Driver. You knew that, but this is better. Much better.
The Driver is barely human. Not monosyllabic but measured. Has he travelled forward in time? He’s from a different era certainly: one of American muscle and diesel power. A time when tough guys ruled the earth, a time before the Hollywood planet killer named CGI gave rise to the techno geeks. Is he autistic? He seems to be on the spectrum. Fixated and singularly driven he sees everything in slow-motion.
His drive is wired differently from ours. He’s got honour and dignity. He’s also a psychopath. Part Travis Bickle part Shane, The Driver takes up with Carey Mulligan’s Irene and her son. His surrogate family suffer all innocent families suffer in Westerns and his revenge is total and complete. Complete like a serial killer completes their murder spree.
And L.A. hasn’t looked this good since Heat or this dangerous since Collateral. It’s shot like an Ocean Pacific t-shirt font and all. Those sparkling episodes of “Miami Vice” that glimmered so knowingly into dull British living rooms are resurrected in Drive. This isn’t neo-noir it’s neon-noir and it’s Scorpio is definitely rising.