Drive (2011) (R)

I'm not exactly sure how to feel about "Drive". While parts of it are unmatched in their stylization and originality, others just don't hold up.
Ryan Gosling is as likable as a protagonist that you can come across. For the men, he represents them very well—for the ladies, well, he's just so darn good looking. This is actually one of the things that I had a problem with in "Drive". While Gosling's character is never given a name (a fact that I really like and admire), it seems like the man he plays and the costume designer didn't meet eye-to-eye.
Gosling plays a driver who works in Hollywood movies as a stunt driver. He also moonlights as the man who drives the getaway car for criminals....and he's good. The opening scene of "Drive" is virtually impeccable. The tension is created instantly and you believe in all the characters the first moment you see them. The scene lasts about ten minutes or so, by my estimations, but it's ridiculously effective. The scene is Gosling's character toting around a couple of men who just robbed someplace in a Chevy Impala and trying to evade the police. The cliches that you think are coming and are expecting are sidestepped so easily that it leaves you confused for a second.
Going from this scene to the next one is a huge letdown of energy. In fact the energy stays at a pretty low point for a while in the movie. For an action/thriller, "Drive" has its remarkably dull moments.
This character that Gosling plays (and he does a very good job at it) is quiet and enigmatic. He seems to rid himself of all of his energy driving. He's tame and stays to himself.
When his next door neighbor, Irene, and her son Benicio need help, the driver finds himself reaching out to them. Irene's husband is in jail and the driver becomes a somewhat father figure to Benicio.
My problem is that in the somewhat run down part of town that they both live in, Irene seems perfectly happy to let some strange man into her life at a moment's notice. In one day, he has already bonded with Benicio and Irene to the point where he's carrying the sleeping child into a bedroom and helping tuck him in. Does this sound like a very bizarre and unlikely first date to you? But hey, he's great with kids so I guess he's not crazy or anything.
Then there's the matter of Ryan Gosling's costumes. This man keeps to himself and really only has two or three friends. So why does he always wear designer clothes that scream for attention? It would seem that Erin Benach (the costume designer) just wanted to flatter Gosling, and she does, but sometimes it's just silly. Like one of the first times that he meets Irene and spends the day with her, he was working in the car shop in a blue, loose, denim button up. But once with Irene he's suddenly in a extremely tight, white v-neck that's smeared with grease just on the edges of the shirt......right.
I may be the only one with this view but c'est la vie.
There's also a problem with continuity which I usually don't pick up on but it was glaring enough for me to notice. Here's Ryan Gosling with gloves—next shot—no gloves. Cars are passing a white car—next shot—blue car.
So "Drive" has faults but it also has incredible moments. The dialogue between the driver and Irene is not necessarily stellar but the violence is. When the violence finally comes, it's sort of a relief to see it because it's gritty and impactful which is what "Drive" needed to keep it from sinking.
The driver gets involved with mobs and the mafia and other predictable things and has to keep Irene away from all that because he doesn't want her to get hurt.
The action moments are usually filmed in slow-motion and it's almost excessive. I feel like if the whole movie was played in real time it would have been at least five minutes shorter.
"Drive" needed a cleaner screenplay.
While its performances are good like Gosling and a noteworthy Albert Brooks—the rest of the picture felt empty. What was the point of the movie? I could argue a few points but it's hard to support any of them...after a while I found myself not really caring about the characters which is a very dangerous place for an audience to be. While "Drive" is exciting in parts it's also hollow.

Score: 2 and half stars out of 4

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