This is no antic-frantic affair; instead, it's a cerebral game of stop-and-go, hide-and-seek, as the director behind the camera handles things exactly like the guy behind the wheel - with a stylish mixture of cold calculation and cool aplomb.
Mainstream audiences will probably be confounded by "Drive," while lovers of gritty filmmaking will defend every exaggerated shotgun wound as art. Know which camp you're in before you enter the theater.
To invest oneself emotionally in the central relationship, or the movie itself, would be akin to investing oneself emotionally in one's car. But when the car looks this good and drives this fast, why not?
There's a sleek, pulse-pounding, heart-racing machine in Drive, but it's buried deeply under an oppressive package of optional extras. For all of its good ideas -- and there are plenty of them -- the film eventually buckles under an excess of style.
Drive revels in sensory detail; it's a visually and aurally edgy Euro-influenced American genre movie about the coolness of noir-influenced American genre movies about the coolness of driving - especially in L.A.
Think of "Drive" as the cinematic equivalent of riding in a car that projects a fashionably stylish image. Sure, the gas mileage may be terrible and the engine unreliable, but it's such a smooth, good-looking ride that you'll put up with the annoyances.
Gosling's masculine, minimalist approach makes him mysteriously compelling. Yes, there's the fact that he's gorgeous. But he also does so much with just a subtle glance, by just holding a moment a beat or two longer than you might expect.
Tense car chases, action scenes handled with crisp panache and Canadian actor Ryan Gosling channelling Steve McQueen as an existential wheel man add up to make Drive one of the best arty-action films since Steven Soderbergh's The Limey.