I was surprisingly disappointed by Ryan Gosling here, but not in Nicolas Winding Refn’s film. Refn (The Pusher Trilogy, Bronson, and Valhalla Rising) has always had something edgy and interesting to offer. I’m assuming that his latest film must have had a bigger budget than his previous films. It starts out with a great wheel-man scene that is tension filled and a great chase scene. Gosling’s character is a part-time stunt driver in the movies and doubles as a get-away driver for heists. Nothing too out of the ordinary as a genre-thriller set piece, but in the hands of Refn, there is an extra dimension. We know there’s something deeper in Goslings character than we’ve been let in on. Soon it all comes out and the signature Refn violence rears its head. He does it like no other.
There are a lot of familiar faces here, and some that seem cast against type. Albert Brooks is great as Bernie Rose, a Jewish gangster that invests in a car that Goslings boss has convinced him to back, with Goslings character as the driver. That face looked familiar to me (and especially the voice and delivery) but it couldn’t be…but it was. Albert Brooks. Then there’s Christina Hendricks who also looked familiar. Less 50’s demure, more 90’s slutty. Yes. Joan in Mad Men. How could you mistake that manufacture body? Ron Perlman (Clay in Sons of Anarchy) was certainly recognizable as Bernie Rose’s partner in crime. All of them did a good job – especially Brooks.
Carey Mulligan adequately plays the love interest that gets The Driver in trouble. There is also a soundtrack that is full of surprises (though that is not surprising from Refn – he takes pride in his soundtracks). Refn delivers again. I’ve not seen a clunker from him yet.