‘Drive’ travels under speed limit

HERE'S WHAT the movies tell us about guys who like to drive cars: They don't talk much.

Jason Statham in "The Transporter," Barry Newman in "Vanishing Point," Steve McQueen in "Bullitt," Ryan O'Neal in "The Driver."

Very much in that laconic tradition is Ryan Gosling in "Drive," playing a stoic getaway man (he is nameless) who gets involved in the life of the single damsel in distress (Carey Mulligan) next door.

He's so closed-mouthed that he actually started to drive me a little nuts. Mulligan invites him over for a meet-and-greet, asks if he wants a glass of water, and Gosling sort of stares at her for several minutes before revealing his profound answer: "Yes."

"Drive" is being advertised as a fast, furious movie featuring flipped cars and exploding heads, but be forewarned - it's about 10 times more deliberate than your average Hollywood actioner.

It's directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, the kookiest Dane since Hamlet, and is often as slow-moving as "Valhalla Rising," Refn's movie about Vikings who wander in a fog, stroll barren wastelands and occasionally bludgeon somebody.

"Drive" is set in industrial Los Angeles, where Gosling's wheel man is maneuvering for a run at a NASCAR career, working in an auto-body shop (run by Bryan Cranston) and moonlighting as a driver-for-hire for heist crews.

These NASCAR plans require a bankroll, which puts him potentially in hock to a pair of local Jewish mobsters (Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman), leading to an entirely improbable plot coincidence and an improbably good role for Brooks, going way against type as a ruthless gangster.

Watching him wander among the movie's extensive collection of vintage/classic cars, I'm reminded that Brooks made one of the great American road movies of all time, "Lost in America." Anyone can make a car movie with a Malibu (Gosling's true co-star here, with apologies to the underused Mulligan) or a Mustang or a Challenger - Brooks did it with a Winnebago.

And he also never stopped talking. ("Under the egg . . . dry. Outside the egg . . . wet.")


Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. With Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Ryan Gosling. Distributed by FilmDistrict.

Running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity).