DRIVE (Rated R for graphic violence, harsh profanity, some nudity): Two things make this otherwise humdrum action flick worth seeing: a strong cast including Ryan Gosling in the lead and Albert Brooks in a surprisingly unusual role as a tough guy Hollywood producer; and director Nicolas Winding Refn's stylishly noir concept - as found in Sames Sallis' pulp novel from which it has been taken.
An unnamed stunt driver (Gosling) is an efficient, taciturn fellow who moonlights by driving a getaway car for criminals. He gets to know his apartment neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) - a mother & wife of a jailed crook who returns to his previous life of crime and must pay for it all over it again. Irene, her son, & the driver form a comfortable platonic friendship. It isn't long after the husband's violent death that things get increasingly dangerous, as the driver's life becomes embroiled in one blood-spattered situation after another. Thanks to Irene & her son, he loner's dispassionate attitude changes; he lets down his guard, then encounters ruthless Bernie Ross (Brooks), luckless Shannon (Bryan Cranston), and mobster Nino (Ron Perlman) in a lead to the ultimate conclusion he must face.
There's little new in the plot; what counts are the characterizations and enveloping stylishness of Refn's directing that turns the mundane into a taut, cleverly conceived film noir, aided & abetted by Newton Thomas Sigel's rich cinematography - from stark noir lighting to following wild car chases down L.A.'s neon-flooded & run-down streets, and copious crane shots of the city from above - 102-minutes of dark humor, sadness, and psychologically charged, graphically brutal action that elevates the movie to another level. (Grade: B+)