I was going to sit down and explain why I am seemingly in the minority of people who didn't love Drive but then I started reading other reviews and felt a little ashamed of having such a controversial opinion.
I went over to see Jon at Films Worth Watching who has already come across people with the same arguments as me and in his excellent review seemingly bats them away with the ease of a great writer and a great lover of cinema. He made me want to see the film again.
Nicholas Winding Refn, director of the Pusher trilogy and Bronson, good movies with flaws that left me feeling a little flat by the time the movie ended but with strong performances. Ryan Gosling, not exactly a good looking guy brought to peoples attention by appearing in a Nicholas Sparks movie and has only worked sparingly since including an apparently (because I'm yet to see it) stellar performance in last years Blue Valentine. The combination of the two has produced what is undoubtedly Refn's finest work and quite probably Gosling's too.
It's a movie about a guy who drives, his name is Driver, he hardly says more than three words throughout the film but he sure can drive and bite on a toothpick. There's a heist. It goes wrong. There's some danger, some chases, some women and children in peril, some violence but not too much and nothing really shocking if you view it as part of the film rather than an "oh my golly gosh darn my children are going to see this one scene and want to stamp each other's heads off, kill Hollywood!" way or if you've seen movies that weren't made in Hollywood before.
And this is where I have a problem with the movie. It wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve, whether Refn was joking about 16 Candles and Pretty Woman or not it was obvious to me that the protagonist was basically Alain Delon in Le Samourai, Leah pulled up the Michael Mann comparison straight away and the scene in the elevator was like a watered down version of the opening of Irreversible.
Refn is a Scandinavian film maker, that's an area of Europe for those not so familiar with geography, and he brings a very European style to the film. His cinematography is beautiful, the atmosphere he builds with the soundtrack is very powerful and the protagonist who hardly speaks just adds to that. As far as I can tell the uniqueness of these aspects in an American action movie are the main reasons people are loving Drive but I've seen it all before and I think that might be why I don't love it. Yet. As I said, I will re-watch it and I sort of expect to change my mind when I do.
People have been bringing up the film maker with the giant face and pop culture dialogue to compare Refn to and I can see that; his filmic references to movies long past and use of soundtrack are similar in style but I hadn't seen the films referenced by Tarantino before seeing his movies so it was a lot more impressive than seeing Melville and Freidkin and Kim Ki-Duk regurgitated on screen.
If you've read this far you may be thinking that I didn't actually like the movie. I did. It's the best Hollywood movie I've seen in a long time. I can't even remember the last one that was as good as this that I could compare it to. Inception perhaps. Best American genre movie since Inception. But I can only give it 7 or 7.5 our of 10. This would be one of those times that being a film geek has dampened by enthusiasm for a film as I think on another day at another time I could quite easily have gushed and called it the greatest movie who ever lived or something equally nonsensical.
Let the blah begin. Or the name calling if you prefer! But whatever you think of my words please go read Jon's review, it's really very good.