“Drive,” a modern noir about cars and criminals, is one of the most anticipated releases of the year. And why shouldn’t it be? It stars Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, two of Hollywood’s brightest young actors, and talented vets like Albert Brooks, with Cannes buzz to boast.
With an over 80 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the majority of critics think “Drive” is worth the hype.
The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday gave the film four stars. And although the lady-pleasing Gosling recently said he would rather be making babies than films, Hornaday calls the actor’s performance a “slow, white-hot burn”:
In “Drive,” Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn neatly manage the hat trick of paying homage to those wheelmen of yore while reinvigorating the genre with style, smarts and flashes of wit. You may still want to fasten your seat belts, but in these capable, seductive hands you're in for a smooth, uncommonly assured ride.
Roger Ebert called “Drive” “an elegant exercise in style,” awarding the film three-and-a-half out of four stars. Both Hornaday and Ebert say Gosling is reminiscent of Steve McQueen.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, who reviewed the film from Cannes, puts the film into a special category. He writes that “Drive” is “a spasmodically violent, creatively cast and off-center fast-cars-and-crime drama [that] belongs to a rarified genre subset of stripped down, semi-arty and quasi-existentialist action films.”
Based on the small amount of negative reviews, it seems that the film’s violence didn’t get some critics’ engines going.
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised Refn, the actors and the film’s use of Los Angeles as a backdrop. “Less user-friendly is the film's disturbing violence,” he writes. “‘Drive’ doesn't spend a lot of time on mayhem, but what does get put on screen is intense, unsettling and increasingly grotesque and graphic as the film goes on.”
New York Magazine’s David Edelstein was a bit harsher in his critique, writing ‘Drive’ is “as dumb as ... ‘Conan the Barbarian’ but awash in neon-lit nightscapes and existential dread, with killings so graphic that you can’t entirely believe what you’re gagging at.”
I’m sure some viewers will also have trouble stomaching what some critics see as gratuitous violence. But it’s safe to say the many positives will still “Drive” viewers to the box office.
Watch the trailer below.