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Thursday September 22nd, 2011

In Nicolas Winding Refn's intense, powerful drama Drive Ryan Gosling is mesmerizing as the mysterious loner who is simply referred to as Driver and who wears a jacket with a scorpion sketched on the back. A man of few words his compulsive personality causes him to seek adrenalin rushes by offering his services as a getaway driver to the underworld and a stunt car driver to Hollywood directors.

He also works a regular job at an auto repair shop for a crotchety old mechanic named Shannon (Bryan Cranston) who dreams of owning a championship racecar with Driver behind the steering wheel. Needing money for his racing venture Shannon enlists mobster friend Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) as a partner.

In an adjacent apartment down the hall from Driver lives a young woman, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her small boy, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Driver learns that Irene's husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) is in prison and due to be released soon.  When Standard arrives home the good feelings don't last very long. He's in debt to loan sharks who seem intent on making his life as miserable as possible. Driver who has taken a liking to Irene and Benicio becomes involved in trying to help Standard out of his predicament but unforeseen consequences from a botched pawn shop robbery ignite a grisly trail of violence.

Drive is one of the best films of 2011. Ryan Gosling gives what will surely be one of the finest performances by an actor this year as a nihilist who's long past believing in anything and works both sides of the street. Carey Mulligan is excellent as Irene whose sweetness and vulnerability strike an emotional chord in Driver. But Driver knows that in this jungle of a world we live in the vulnerable are just so much collateral damage.

Albert Brooks is convincingly menacing as the mob boss with a mercurial personality. With great direction, cinematography, editing and a fine score by Cliff Martinez, Drive is a riveting piece of film noir/crime drama.