By Shane M. Dallmann
Clever, clever me… I thought I had this one pegged… Ryan Gosling is a professional “getaway” driver without a name, so I thought we were in for a remake of Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER. Not quite, but proper homage to that film (including its most disturbing moments) does take place. It doesn’t qualify as a remake because there’s no nameless COP on the driver’s tail in this case. But Walter Hill would be proud of this film all the same.
Okay. Premise. The nameless driver is employed by day as a Hollywood stunt driver. He also works as a mechanic (not the Bronson/Statham type… an AUTO mechanic–he doesn’t carry a gun and he’d prefer to avoid violence–hell, it’s like pulling teeth to get more than two consecutive WORDS out of this guy). His garage employer essentially offers him up as collateral for a sure-fire stock-car-racing mob loan. Meantime, our antihero makes the pleasurable acquaintance of his next-door neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. Ah, but the boy’s father has just been released from prison, and his return is going to complicate things even further. That’s all you need to know.
Oh, you DO get action… but the film goes for nearly an hour WITHOUT it and you don’t even notice, so intense are the noirish characters and their situations. And when violence DOES explode, it’s with an intensity that even you might find yourself unprepared for. Just how well-cast is this movie? Let me put it this way. I went for the whole ride without remembering even once that Cranston made his initial impression on me as the dopey dad on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (which I used to like, but eventually got sick of, largely because of HIM). I certainly recognized Albert Brooks as the lead mobster, but I never expected him to be funny–he just took charge and that was IT. And Ron Perlman was perfect as his unhappy partner… oh, the list goes on.
You just need to see this film and let it stomp on your face a dozen times or so. Trust me on that.