Overview: A reticent mechanic who doubles as a Hollywood stuntman with superb driving skills gets into some unwanted trouble when he helps out a woman. 2011; Rated R; 100 minutes
All kinds of cool: Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) brings us this ultraviolent crime drama starring Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine, The Notebook). Refn is known for his highly-stylized approach to filming. Here, with cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, Refn uses unique camera angles to create a neo-noir look and feel with an unconventional perspective. The opening chase scene, for example, was shot by Refn sitting inside of the car filming Gosling driving. This is just one of many examples of his daring approach for cinematic flair. During most of the driving scenes Gosling is in the car with a stunt driver, who is controlling the car from the passenger seat so Gosling can focus on the acting aspect.
The Silent Power of Expression: The film builds character interactions almost solely through silence and expression. The interactions between Gosling’s character (referred to only as Driver) and Irene (Carey Mulligan) are compelling, built on an evident sense of shared affection, even when they share as many words as elementary school crushes. Bryan Cranston, as Shannon, delivers a heartfelt performance as he plays a symbolic part in Driver’s life. His exchanges with Driver and his father-like attitude offer substance into the background of the title character.
The Explosive Power of Violence: This is a film of two tones: the first being the subdued and unspoken, the other being the explosive episodes of graphic violence. Albert Brooks brings it all together as Bernie Ross, Nino’s crime partner. He is as prominent on screen as Driver and was clearly afforded the range to make the role seem as cruel as possible.
A Few Faults: The movie seems a bit rushed, laboring under a script re-haul brought about by the extremely low budget for the script. The small amount of dialogue muttered by Driver and Irene lacks any real substance. The character of Irene would have been better served by more dialogue, and the sequences in which she is involved would be better suited toward her resolve. The film does have boring stretches—mainly the driving sequences with Irene’s son Benicio, which are pointless, failing to show any connection between the young boy and Driver. Towards the end of the film, the overall excitement is shattered by the unintended loss of seriousness, resulting in scenes that steal the hinder of the film’s aptitude.
Overall: Gosling brings to the screen a memorable hero who will keep viewers intrigued throughout. With its violent outburst, notable performances, and minimalist but loaded dialogue, this film is a damn good ride.