Title: Drive

Studio/Distributor: FilmDistrict/OddLot Entertainment/Bold Films

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Kaden Leos, Jeff Wolfe, James Biberi, Russ Tamblyn, Joey Bucaro, Tiara Parker, Tim Trella, Jim Hart.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Hossien Amini (based on the book by James Sallis)

Synopsis: Moonlighting as a getaway driver for criminals, a Hollywood stunt driver finds his life in danger when a contract is put out on him after a heist goes wrong, causing him to go to extreme measures to protect himself and his neighbors, the girlfriend and son of the man involved in the heist.

Bottom Line: At first, when I learn of “Drive”, my expectations were met with curiousity and skepticism. Curiousity because of the footage I saw in the redband trailer. A brutal & tense revenge tale that looks like something out of international waters and it looked awesome while it did looked the way it did. Also skepticism because of what I then considered to be a casting gaffe. I always thought Albert Brooks to be a funny guy, especially when playing lead villain Russ Cargill in “The Simpsons Movie”, so him playing a villain with a straightforward tone rather than dark humor didn’t exactly scream “exciting” or “game changing” to me at first. Then I saw some clips and that’s when my skepticism was raised just a little bit. I got more intrigued about the film as I learned more about it and I definitely wanted to check it out. I’m glad I did because “Drive” is definitely one of the best films of year so far. Expertly shot, well-acted performances, visually striking, it has everything working for it. The story elevates the “getaway driver” story angle and makes it so much more than that, more of a character study in the well-placed guise of a high-speed chase movie (the chase scenes and the car stunts are spectacular). Gosling’s performance in the film as the aptly-named Driver proves once again (after “Crazy Stupid Love” and the upcoming “The Ides of March”) why he’s one of the hardest-working actors in the business this year or any other year. Not to be outdone, the perfomances of the supporting players are on par with Gosling as well. Carey Mulligan as Irene has a sense of innocence and vunerability in her performance, Bryan Cranston shows why he’s earned accolades for his work on AMC’s “Breaking Bad” as Driver’s friend & mentor Shannon, a man who finds himself teetering between desperation and regret while recruiting Driver to help out gangster Bernie Rose (Brooks) with a job. Speaking of Brooks’ performance, when I saw the final product, he delivered a startling performance as Bernie that by the time it was over, my skepticism just disappeared. He was THAT good. The visuals, the editing & the music score by Cliff Martinez (as well as the songs featured in the movie) gives “Drive” the feeling of a neon-noir film from the 80s and I believe that was the point of said feeling that director Nicolas Winding Refn wanted to have come across on-screen. I’ve never seen Refn’s previous films “Valhalla Rising”, “Bronson” or the “Pusher” trilogy but after seeing this movie, I think I’ll give them a shot. “Drive” doesn’t have a Hollywood happy ending where the hero fights the bad guy and emerges victorious then rides off with the girl. To me, that’s refreshing in these times and “Drive” is a movie that throws convention out of the window and I loved every minute of it.