Action movies require no genius to come along and reinvent them: Slow them down (The Wild Bunch), chat them up (Inglourious Basterds) or blow them to pieces (Armageddon), and the basic formula still works, provided it has enough room to function. That's all to say that Drive feels like some kind of masterpiece---it's as pure a version of the essentials as you're likely to see. (Hossein Amini's script, from a spare 2005 crime novel by James Sallis, should be required reading for aspiring screenwriters.)
Our hero is nameless; as played by the ever-impressive Ryan Gosling, this tightly contained Hollywood stunt driver, sometimes called "the kid" by garage boss Bryan Cranston, is a closed book. All you really need to know about him comes in his first conversation with a married neighbor (Mulligan): "I drive," he states, the barest hint of a flirtation.
When not strapped into his crash car, the guy also moonlights as a getaway wheelman---the film is about the moment when his luck begins to run out, via some bad company (Brooks, a stunningly potent villain) and a melting heart. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) has taken the opportunity to work in America and pushed it to delirious limits; his effort, a foreigner's impassioned take on '80s-synth-scored romance and highway mayhem, plays like the work of a student graduating with highest honors.
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