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Gorgeous and Gruesome Coexist 

Wednesday, Jan 11 2012
As stripped down and propulsive as its robotic title, Drive is the most "American" movie yet by Danish genre director Nicolas Winding Refn. The film is a sleek, tense piece of work that, as a vehicle for Ryan Gosling, has a kind of daredevil control, swerving the actor dangerously close to and abruptly away from self-parody. The plot could nearly be inscribed on the head of a pin: A chivalrous loner—Gosling's Hollywood stunt driver/wheelman—participates in an armed robbery to help out the woman he loves; the deal turns out to be a setup, and the body count explodes. Drive is nominally set in the present day, but the 40-year-old director elects to emphasize the retro—synthesizing Miami Vice's languid dissolves and neon-limned dive bars, Blade Runner's nocturnal skylines and Top Gun's MTV-friendly lyrical montage interludes. Refn's most obvious break with the airbrushed '80s and clearest link to his own early films is the ultraviolent, even gruesome, splatter that comes once Gosling's near-catatonic driver agrees to the heist. It's one of Drive's jokes that, over the course of the movie, Gosling's spiffy silver jacket will be increasingly bloodstained. The Gosling character is not only a master of high-speed bumper cars but, when riled, also a near-lunatic killer who, as up close and personal as the protagonist of Refn's Bronson, uses a hammer, some steel-tipped footwear and his bare hands to take care of business.
Jan. 13-19; Jan. 27-Feb. 4; Wed., Feb. 8, 2012

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J. Hoberman

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