Film / Drive

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/drive.jpg

"If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down; I don't carry a gun... I drive."
The Driver

Drive is a 2011 Neo Noir crime thriller directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, itself based on a 2005 novel of the same name by James Sallis. Ryan Gosling plays The Driver, a stuntman/mechanic in Los Angeles who moonlights as a Getaway Driver for robberies. The Driver has isolated and detached himself from just about everyone else in the world, except his boss, Shannon, and his young neighbor Irene, whom he becomes emotionally attached to. After the Driver becomes entangled in a botched heist involving money stolen from the east coast Mafia, he finds his life coming apart and must fight to stay alive and protect the people he's come to care for.

Features a soundtrack consisting of early artists within the nascent '80s-throwback Synthwave genre. Refn would later repeat this stylistic choice for The Neon Demon.

A sequel to the novel, titled Driven, was published in April 2012. A comic of the same name was published by IDW, chronicling on what happened to the Driver after the events of the movie.

Don't confuse this film with the 1998 Marc Dacascos film of the same name.

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.


The following tropes belong to Drive, no matter what:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Irene has clearly been re-thinking her marriage to Standard during his prison term, but reaffirms their relationship upon his return.
  • Anachronic Order: The entirety of the novel, which can make it initially rather difficult to follow despite the fairly straightforward plot. Screenwriter Hossein Amini noted that this made adapting the novel a very challenging proposition. The film only makes use of it in three scenes.
  • And Starring: Albert Brooks
  • Anyone Can Die: By the end of the movie Standard, Bernie, Nino, Blanche, Shannon, several mooks and possibly the Driver are all dead, and that's a movie with fewer than 10 named major or minor characters in it.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Irene gives The Driver one of these.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: While interrogating Blanche
    Driver: Now, you just got a little boy's father killed, and you almost got us killed. And now, you're lying to me.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: The Driver refers to one. Although greatly cut down from the novel, where "Doc" is a much bigger, more developed character who even gets a scene or two from his own perspective.
  • Backstab Backfire: The Driver attempting to return the money to Bernie, is stabbed badly in the stomach, but the Driver is able to get a stab on him in the heart and come out on top.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted when Blanche's head gets blown off by close-range shotgun blast.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the end, the Driver has defeated all of the villains and ensured Irene's safety, but he drives away without the money, does not get the girl, and it's not revealed if he gets treated for his stab wound.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Albeit with shades of Black and White Morality here and there. However well-meaning though, the Driver is still a criminal with serious anger issues. And he's pitted against a rogue's gallery of LA mobsters and murderers who are much worse than him.
  • Blofeld Ploy: Played with. Bernie is piping mad at Nino for trying to pull off a heist, screwing up and potentially getting them both killed by the East Coast mob. To show his dissatisfaction he stabs Cook in the eye with a fork, stabs him repeatedly in the throat with a knife and tells Nino "Now it's your turn to clean up after me." Cook had participated in the heist so he was a loose end to be killed like anyone else involved. It was the manner of his death that was meant to show Nino how pissed off Bernie was.
  • Boom, Headshot: Blanche gets half of her head blown off by a shotgun at close range.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Driver's driving style is very precise and lacks the flashiness we might expect from a driving movie. He prefers to play cat-and-mouse games with the cops rather than engaging them in long, high-speed car chases.
    • Most of the killings are quick, brutal and done up close. There are no fancy fistfights, knife fights or Gun Fu.
  • Brick Joke: A very dark example. Early on in the film, Bernie and Shannon have agreed on an investment deal for Shannon's plan to have The Driver work as a stock-car driver. Shannon, excited, offers Bernie his hand, but Bernie is still hesitant about the deal and pointedly does not accept. Later on in the film, Bernie shows up in Shannon's garage and talks about how excited he was at the prospect of their deal, and offers Shannon his hand, which Shannon accepts. Bernie then pulls out a straight razor and slits Shannon's arm from elbow to wrist on the spot, leaving him to bleed to death.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early on in the film while shooting a stunt for a movie, the Driver has to do a rollover, where another car hits his while he's driving and his car flips his over several times. He uses the exact same method to knock Nino's car off a cliff.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: A few, namely Nino's resentment of how the ever-unseen East Coast mob treats him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Driver graphically kills a mook in an elevator by stomping his head into paste.
  • Damsel in Distress: Protecting Irene and her child is the sole reason Driver gets involved in the crime spree of the film.
  • Dead Star Walking: Christina Hendricks gets fourth billing in the opening credits and all the trailers, and sixth in the end credits, but is around for all of two scenes with barely any dialogue before getting shot in the head.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Because of his tangling with Bernie and Nino, Driver has to abandon Irene and Benicio, which he warned her would happen.
  • Diegetic Switch: Inverted. Driver exits his apartment after finishing work on a carburetor, and he notices Irene sitting outside her apartment. The narrative music switches to music being played inside Irene's apartment, muffled from being behind a closed door.
  • Dies Wide Open: Teased in the end. Driver drags himself behind the wheel of his car and stares into space without blinking for nearly a minute straight. He finally blinks, however, and drives away. This is a callback to an earlier scene where he has a staring contest with Benicio and claims that the kid blinked first.
  • Down L.A. Drain: There's some driving down the L.A. river. Since The Driver seems to see himself as a character in a film, this is a direct nod to the trope itself.
  • Drone of Dread: Takes over the soundtrack during violent scenes.
  • Drop the Hammer: The Driver brings along a carpenter's claw hammer and uses it to break a gangster's arms, then threatens to drive a bullet into his skull. The hammer's image has become iconic of the film, and is known for inspiring many fan-made posters such as this one to evoke it.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Deconstructed. The Driver has nothing but good intentions for Irene and her kid, but his only skills are driving and a capacity for pitiless violence. His need for heroism leads him to second guess Standard's suspicions about a pawn shop robbery and Standard is predictably betrayed and killed for it. The rest of the movie involves him getting Irene and Benicio out of dangers he helped create.
  • Eye Scream: Bernie jams a fork in Cook's eye.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The more plot-relevant "Scorpion and the Frog" version is referenced by name by the Driver near the end of the film, which goes along with his scorpion jacket ("carrying" the scorpion symbol around on his back), showing that the parable's moral is not lost on him.
  • Le Film Artistique: The film's detractors have criticized that the film leans more towards this at times (especially in the first half) than towards being an action thriller. This was the result of Refn and Gosling's input. It's lampshaded by Bernie:
    I used to produce movies. In the eighties. Kind of like action films, sexy stuff. One critic called them European. I thought they were shit.
  • The Film of the Book: A surprisingly faithful adaptation of James Sallis' novel, though with a few major changes and lacking its completely non-chronological order.
  • Foreshadowing: Early in the film Driver loses a staring contest with the young Benicio. This foreshadows the final scene in which Driver sits motionless in his car after being stabbed by Bernie; staring for an extremely long time. The audience is unaware if he is alive or not, until he finally blinks.
  • Gainax Ending: The ending might be this depending on how you interpret it. The final scene is somewhere between the ending of Being There, the Dying Dream interpretation of the ending of Taxi Driver and a surreal-ish Shout-Out to the ending of Shane. Basically, as the credits roll, the Driver blinks after a full minute of corpse-like behavior, proceeds to twist the key and start the engine, and drive off to parts unknown while leaving the money suitcase on the ground next to Bernie's dead body. So, was he dead or not?
  • Generic Ethnic Crime Gang: Subverted - Nino and Bernie are Jewish gangsters, though Nino's front is still a pizzeria, which Bernie mocks him for. Nino later complains that the true Italian mobsters from the East Coast still call him the anti-Semitic term "kike" and patronize him relentlessly, a source of extreme frustration and insecurity which explains much of his behaviour. Though only used once in the film, without explanation, by Bernie, Nino's real name is in fact the much more Jewish "Izzy".
  • Genre-Busting: On The Other Wiki, the genre is described as "neo-noir arthouse action crime thriller".
  • Genre Throwback: To 1980's crime films.
  • Gorn: Many of the deaths are very bloody, especially Christina Hendricks getting half her head blown off, the stooge in the elevator getting his skull caved in, Cook getting stabbed in the neck three times, and Shannon getting his arm slashed open with a straight razor.
  • Gut Punch:
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Subverted. Nino asks Driver this question and the Driver answers no. Nino's response is: "You're not very good at this, are you?" However, it soon becomes clear that the Driver knows this trope but chose to ignore it because he did not want to get anyone else involved and possibly killed.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Though a rather downplayed case. Still, Bernie and Nino are both brutal thugs, but the Driver may have out-performed them in terms of sheer violence by the end of the film.
  • Hollywood California: Notably showcases both the town's highs and its lows. Despite taking place in and around Hollywood and the Driver being a professional stunt driver for the movies, and while occasionally detouring to film sets, stock car racetracks, sports stadiums and massive LED-rimmed skyscrapers, the film, like its protagonist, mostly focuses on the much less glamorous side of the area, setting itself in cheap apartment complexes and garages.
  • Homage:
    • In two forms: a tribute to the crime movies of the '80s, especially Michael Mann...and to classic Westerns like Shane and The Searchers, which gets a Homage Shot, complete with flipping the meaning of the original shot, to boot. The innocent Irene is the one who has the door closed on her, not the criminal Driver. The eighties-style, pink neon lettering in the credits is a nod to similar credits in Risky Business.
    • The film eerily echoes the 1978 Walter Hill film, The Driver, starring Ryan O'Neal, who played a similarly enigmatic and nonverbal driver for criminals.
  • Improvised Weapon: In one scene, a curtain rod is used to stab a mook.
  • Latex Perfection: Realistically averted. The silicone rubber mask in the film is used for The Driver to resemble the star he's doing the stunts for. It's very high quality and makes him look like the star from a distance but becomes very Uncanny Valley up-close.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: "Nino's Pizza" is a thinly-veiled meeting place for his low-level ring of thugs and mob associates. It's actually played doubly straight, as it's also a front for Nino's own persona: he's a former Jewish street tough from Brooklyn who's still aspiring to be an Italian mafioso and burdened with mockery and condescension from his East Coast counterparts.
  • Metallicar Syndrome: Subverted to the point of comedy. The opening scene shows Ryan Gosling picking up a modified car for use in a heist. He and the mechanic walk past 5 or 6 flashy American muscle cars while the mechanic quips, "Here she is, plain-jane as can be, the most popular car in the state of California, the [modern day] Chevy Impala". Keep in mind that the Impala also used to be a flashy American muscle car back in the day.
  • Mood Whiplash: The movie uses a lot of happy music before it switches to very brutal violence. In particular, the elevator scene goes from a very romantic scene to a mook having his brains stomped into pulp.
  • Mook Horror Show: The Driver stalks Nino after he leaves the pizza place at night, chasing them to the beach at night. The Driver is even wearing a blank face mask from a stunt movie.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers give the impression that the film is a straight car chase thriller similar to The Fast and the Furious, when it actually features quite a lot of quiet drama scenes sprinkled amongst the bone-crunching violence. One woman even sued because she didn't receive a The Fast and the Furious clone.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The Driver is a pragmatic and vicious fighter, killing one man by stabbing him with a curtain rod. Later, while saying goodbye to his not-girlfriend, he kills a hitman with them in an elevator, going to even further extremes (doubtless his love was also his Berserk Button). She is shown to be visibly freaked out by the killing.
  • Not Quite Dead: The Driver gets stabbed in the stomach by Bernie in the end. He is left sitting in his car blanked out until his Real Hero theme song begins to play and he remains conscious enough to drive away.
  • Obviously Evil: Discussed while the Driver and Benicio watch TV.
    Driver: Is he a bad guy?
    Benicio: Yeah.
    Driver: How can you tell?
    Benicio: Because he's a shark.
    Driver: There's no good sharks?
    Benicio: No. I mean just look at him. Does he look like a good guy to you?
  • One Last Job: Standard has to pull one due to increasingly threatening Loan Sharks. It gets him killed.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Pretty much every shot. Even if both orange and blue aren't present in one shot together, the scene will likely be set up so that from one angle it's orange, and from another it's blue. Notably, blue/pink is used in a number of the night scenes. Refn explained that the stylized appearance of the film is in part due to his colour-blindness, as he can't see mid-colours.
  • Out, Damned Spot!:
    • Multiple times characters are shown cleaning their hands of grease, blood, etc. When the Driver is reluctant to shake Bernie's hand because his hands are dirty with grease, Bernie quips that his hands are "dirty" too.
    • The Driver never cleans his jacket, walking around in broad daylight with it even when it's stained in blood. The closest he gets to cleaning it is a quick dip in the ocean when he murders Nino by drowning him.
  • The Plan: The events of the second half of the film result from Nino's failed attempt at one of these.
  • Prisoner's Dilemma: Nino and the Driver would be better off if the Driver gave the money back and promised never to talk about it, and Nino left him alone. Of course Nino can't trust him, and decides it's better to kill him.
  • Product Placement: Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, the Staples Center and Denny's (Irene works at one). One wonders whether Chevy paid for the inclusion of the Impala, which Shannon calls "plain Jane" and claims that no one will ever notice you driving one because it's the most common car on the road.
  • Rage Breaking Point: The elevator scene, where Driver brutally kills one of Nino's hitmen.
  • The Reveal: Irene sees the Driver as a nice, perhaps odd friend. And then she finds herself stuck in elevator with him and a mook. If it wasn't clear before, it becomes obvious that the Driver has a violent streak and is as dangerous as the villians of this flick.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • No "roaring" involved, but Driver goes on one of these, if a slightly more methodical version, after Standard dies.
    • Bernie seems to fear that the East Coast mob could go on one of these against him and Nino after Nino's plans go awry.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: Standard's pawn shop heist turns up a million dollars in stashed mob money. Oops.
  • Rule of Cool: It doesn't really make a whole lot of sense that a getaway driver, working in the kind of profession that depends on anonymity, would wear a white satin jacket with a golden scorpion embroidered on the back. Indeed, at the end of the opening chase sequence the Driver can be seen taking off the jacket and donning a baseball cap so as to look less conspicuous. However, a great way to lose yourself in a crowd is to wear something outrageous with something mundane under it, ditching the outrageousness (which your pursuers will have noted and for which they will be searching) when you need to disappear. Though it's only seen once in the movie, it's not unlikely that this is what the Driver is aiming for throughout.
  • Shout-Out: To Halloween when Driver wears the rubber mask, as he kills Nino.
  • Slow Motion: Uniquely, the movie mixes actual slow motion with shots that only create the illusion of slow-motion while actually being filmed at normal speed. This was done by having the actors and camera move very smoothly, sometimes unnaturally quietly and stoically. At least one faux-slow-mo shot occurs in most (all?) scenes featuring the Driver, and they range from the peaceful and intimate (e.g. the elevator kiss) to the high-octane (e.g. the fight at the motel). This has the bonus effect of making the actual slow-motion shots harder to recognize.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: One of the main reasons the movie is popular, really. It cuts from Cliff Martinez's quiet, abstract score or ambient '80s-esque pop music to extremely brutal action with a silent background. Also the slow motion scene of Driver staring into a party Nino and his goons are attending, wearing his creepy stunt mask and contemplating how he's going to kill everyone there, has this playing in the background.
  • Spiritual Sequel: The Place Beyond the Pines
    • Both characters were stuntmen who used vehicles as part of their employment, both were taken in and given a job in a low paying mechanic job where they found them selves doing a crooked sideline to make extra cash. They were also pretty soft spoken but had an air of understated charisma, and both ended up in a precarious predicament due to their criminal activity as well as getting angry with their boss/friend.
    • Hotline Miami is a video game spiritual sequel, to the point that the director Nicolas Winding Refn is specially thanked in the credits.
  • Sunshine Noir: The setting and story are often described as this.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Standard, Blanche and Shannon die suddenly and violently with no warning, although in the cases of Standard and Shannon the circumstances make their deaths unsurprising in hindsight.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Nino for his brilliant plan to try and rob the East Coast mob and thinking he could get away with it scot free, and then doubly so with the way he handles the Driver's attempt to give the money back no-strings-attached. This part in particular is what mirrors the "Frog and the Scorpion" parable. Bernie calls him out on his reckless actions that dig both Bernie and himself down in a deeper hole.
    • Blanche, whose first instinct after a violent, scary chase where it's made clear she's been betrayed is to call in with her location.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Most of the TV spots and trailers make it abundantly clear that Standard gets killed without actually saying it. This trailer gives away literally every single plot point in the film in two and a half minutes.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: Used intentionally on the Driver's stunt double mask.
  • Unfortunate Names: Shannon is described as a guy who never got a break. Apparently it started at birth, because he's saddled with a traditionally feminine name.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Under a quiet demeanor Driver seems to have a lot of anger built up. We get a small glimpse of it after Standard comes home but it really explodes in the elevator scene where Driver seems to release decades worth of rage on the mook who comes after him and won't stop till the guy's head is just a stain on the floor.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: The Driver and Irene share a chaste and almost platonic romance before Standard returns home. The tension is finally broken in a very dreamlike kiss late in the film, which turns out to be their last.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • The strippers at Cook's club don't seem particularly fazed by watching their boss get his hand broken with a hammer, the crap royally kicked out of him, and forced to swallow a bullet. One of them even helpfully dials the number for his boss for the Driver.
    • The Driver in his bloodstained silver satin jacket never triggers a second glance, but considering he is hanging around movie sets in his blood stained jacket, this does make some sense.
    • The woman at the party at Ninos' pizzeria has the same detached obliviousness to Nino's antics as the strippers.
  • Villain Ball: The Driver offers to simply give the money back to Nino, no strings attached, but he's such a "belligerent asshole" that he refuses and instead tries to have the Driver killed.
    • It does seem marginally appropriate considering the "trust no one" type of legitimate business Nino is a part of. Better to kill everyone involved than trust that someone is trustworthy.
  • Wham Episode: Standard dies with extreme prejudice at approximately the middle of the movie. After that, multiple Gut Punches are thrown in. Beware of lighthearted music.
  • Wham Line: The Driver's true colors first come out when a former client tries to chat with him about their crime.
    Driver: How about this: shut your mouth, or I'll kick your teeth down your throat and shut it for you.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Surprisingly averted. It's clear that Driver and Irene having feelings for each other but they never act on them before or after her husband returns home. They kiss once later on but it's brief and after Standard has already been murdered.
  • You Have Failed Me: After Bernie finds out Cook had failed in the robbery, he brutally stabs him in the neck.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Drive