If this movie had been made in the 70s or early 80s, it would have starred Clint Eastwood. That was the first thought I had about Ryan Gosling’s nameless character who I will refer to as “The Driver” from this point forward. The Driver reminded me of the number of cowboys Eastwood used to play whose number of line you could probably count on your two hands.
The second thought I had was “Wow, this violence is pretty graphic.”
I’ve always heard about the films of Nicolas Winding Refn (Vahalla Rising, The Pusher trilogy) but after seeing this, I’ll be hunting his films down. I loved everything about the ambiance of this movie. Between the slo-mo and the soundtrack, it had a very classic feel to it. It definitely had a lot of directorial flourishes but I didn’t mind them at all.
Gosling was great as usual but I think this may have been his second best (I will always have a special place in my heart for Lars and The Real Girl). As previously mentioned, Gosling does not have a lot of lines but he’s able to convey pages worth of emotion with a furrow of his brow and tightening of his grip. At first, I wasn’t feeling the budding relationship between the Driver and Irene (Carey Mulligan who clearly went to The Natalie Portman Black Swan School for Delicate Acting for this role) but after the violence ramped up, it served as a great contrast. The Driver was sweet with Irene and her son, Benicio, but when he was unleashed, it was quite jarring (particularly the scene in the elevator with Mulligan and a thug sent to dispatch them).
All the supporting performances were good particularly Bryan Cranston as Shannon, The Driver’s employer and only friends, and Albert Brooks as Bernie Ross, the mobster who ultimately comes after them both. Ron Perlman as Berine’s partner Nino was a little hammy but it’s probably been awhile since he’s gotten to play a guy with this much energy and Oscar Isaac (Irene’s husband, Standard) made the most of his scenes.
I would highly recommend this movie but be warned, there are some scenes of extreme violence. There aren’t a lot of scenes like that but those few scenes were very intense and graphic (not just visually but the sound effects too so closing your eyes won’t be enough).