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File:Drive-Gosling-Big-Weekend-Pregame 2217.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

In Drive -- a 2011 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 (Bryan Cranston), and his young neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), whom he becomes emotionally attached to.

Despite various AwardSnubs, critics and cinephile circles alike heaped tons of praise upon the film; thanks to this praise and its box office success, Drive looks to become a Cult Classic.

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


The following tropes belong to Drive, no matter what:

  • Affably Evil: Bernie Rose. Hell, he genuinely apologizes to Shannon when he slits his wrist and comforts him while as dies, and is visibly shaken with his death afterward. He also appears to genuinely like (or at least respect) the Driver.
  • Anachronic Order: The entirety of the novel. Screenwriter Hossein Amini noted that this made adapting the novel a very challenging proposition. The film only makes use of it in two scenes.
  • Anti-Hero: Driver is a Type IV.
  • 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.
  • Ax Crazy: Driver's stoic demeanor turns out to be a thin lid on a boiling pit of rage--as a horrified Irene and one hapless mook find out in the infamous elevator scene.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: The Driver refers to one.
  • Badass: The Driver, who only gets more and more badass with each passing scene.
  • Badass Driver: "The Driver" is known only as that, so he must be pretty good.
  • Badass Grandpa: Bernie Rose is still a scarily capable man at his advanced age.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted hard when Blanche's (played by Christina Hendricks) head gets blown off by shotgun blast and her brains splatter all over the wall.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Driver
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Also, The Driver
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Bernie and Nino.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the end Driver has been rejected by Irene thanks to his more savage side and his involvement in her affairs have led to the deaths of her husband, Shannon and possibly his own. However, Bernie and Nino are both dead and Driver no longer has the money probably ensuring the safety of her and Benicio.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Driver is himself a criminal with some anger issues. He must go 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 a Mook in the eye with a fork, stabs him repeatedly in the throat with a knife and tells Nino "And now you get to clean up one of my messes." The Mook participated in the heist so 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.
  • Brutal Honesty: Bernie Rose always seems to be giving you the unvarnished truth. It's subverted in the end, when he tries to kill the Driver immediately after insinuating that he'll let him go.
  • Chest Insignia: The Driver has a yellow scorpion insignia on the back of his silver jacket, which the camera frequently lingers on. Later, he refers to the fable of the scorpion and the frog.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: A few, namely Nino's resentment of how the ever unseen East Coast mob treats him.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: It's not laboured on, but it's hinted that the Driver has one of these.
    • His backstory is developed in more detail in the novel: his mother was a Cloudcuckoolander who eventually murdered her husband. (In a nod to this, the manner in the film in which Bernie murders Cook is the same way that Driver's mother kills his father in the novel.)
  • Dead Star Walking: Christina Hendricks gets fourth billing in the opening credits and all the trailers but is around for all of two scenes with barely any dialogue before getting shot in the head.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Mostly averted since a lot of the major characters are killed off pretty suddenly without much fanfare, with Nino's death being a possible exception.
  • Did Not Get the Girl
  • Dies Wide Open: After the tussle with Bernie, the Driver drags himself behind the wheel of his car and stares into space without blinking for nearly a minute straight. He finally blinks, resulting in a subversion, except it might have been the beginning of a Dying Dream. See Gainax Ending for more information.
  • Doesn't Like Guns:
    • One of Driver's rules. The only gun he fires the whole film he takes off one of the hitmen sent to kill him.
    • Bernie seems to be a Knife Nut and is never seen handling a firearm, even when he goes alone to kill someone.
  • The Dragon: Nino, with shades of Number Two for Brains.
  • Drone of Dread: Takes over the soundtrack during violent scenes.
  • Drop the Hammer: The Driver brings along a carpeter's claw hammer and uses it to beak a gangster's arms, then threatens to drive a bullet into his skull.
  • Eye Scream: Bernie jams a fork in a Mook's eye.
  • 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 apparently 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.
  • 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.
  • The Hero Dies: Depending on how you interpret the ending.
  • 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: Nino and Bernie are Jewish gangsters.
  • George Lucas Throwback: To 1980's crime films.
  • Gorn: The movie is notable for becoming extremely violent for it's second half, and is not afraid to show characters dying in extreme and slow motion detail. Some of the deaths are up there in Saw range in terms of bloodshed.
  • Greedy Jew: Bernie and Nino are crooked Jewish mobsters and serve as the primary antagonists. Nino's motivation is never receiving respect from the Mafia because of his Judaism.
  • Gut Punch: Blanche getting a face full of buckshot sends the movie almost instantly from low key, character-driven romance to a considerably Bloodier and Gorier Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Doubly so because the only previous on screen death had been very understated.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Verbatim, by Nino. The Driver answers no and gets the response: "You're not very good at this, are you?"
  • Hidden Depths: The Driver, who comes across as a deeply quiet and shy man who has a few minor criminal connections, but is later revealed to have great reserves of anger and darkness within him. Hinted at with both Bernie Rose and Nino; both appear to come off as little more than ruthless and vicious criminals, but Bernie gives the impression at times of a man deeply weary with his life and apparently genuinely eager to set up a stock car racing team with Shannon, while Nino reveals that he's stewing with resentment at never being shown respect by his criminal associates.
  • 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.
  • Improvised Weapon: In one scene, a curtain rod.
  • Kill'Em All: By the end of the film every character besides Irene, her son and possibly the Driver has died.
  • Knife Nut: Bernie does all of his killings with knives. He's even got a very nice box of expensive knives and razors that he puts to good use.
  • Latex Perfection: Realistically averted. The latex mask in the film is used for The Driver to resemble the star he's doing the stunts for. It is of very high quality and makes him look like the star from a distance but becomes very Uncanny Valley up-close.
  • Limited Wardrobe: The Driver takes his satin jacket everywhere, even when it's noticeably stained with blood. And he only ever seems to wear the same denim shirt under it.
  • Mercy Kill: The way Bernie kills Shannon is definitely this. He HAD to kill Shannon, didn't mean he had to do it brutally or prolong it. Slitting his wrist and letting him bleed out(and comforting him as he did) was, when all's said and done, probably the most humane way to kill him, short of a lethal injection or something.
  • 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.
  • 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 Name Given: Driver. The closest to a name we get is Shannon calling him Kid. The soundtrack refers to him by Deluxe, which is taken from a pun on Standard's name in the film.
  • Not Wearing Tights: The Driver's satin jacket with its scorpion motif is akin to this. In interviews, Ryan Gosling and director Nicholas Winding Refn have both likened the character to a superhero.
  • One Last Job: Standard has to pull one due to increasingly threatening Loan Sharks. It gets him killed.
  • Oral Fixation Fixation: The Driver has a habit of leaving a toothpick hanging out of his mouth, allowing him to look cool while pointedly not smoking tobacco.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Playing Against Type: Comedic actor Albert Brooks playing the mobster Bernie, though Bernie's actual personality is pretty close to Brooks' typical performance.
  • Product Placement: Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Budweiser, the Staples Center and Denny's (Irene works at one). One wonders how much Chevy paid for the inclusion of the Impala, which Shannon calls "plain Jane" and claims that no one will ever notice you driving one.
    • That being said, the source novel did contain several loving descriptions of souped-up Ford Galaxies and Chevy Impalas.
  • The Quiet One: Driver is quite reticent, communicating more through his eyes and fleeting smiles than his words. In fact, he speaks fewer than twenty full sentences.
  • Rage Breaking Point: The elevator scene.
  • Retired Complete Monster: Bernie Rose, according to back story created by the director and Albert Brooks.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: No "roaring" involved, but Driver goes on one of these, if a slightly more methodical version, after Standard dies. Bernie also 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.
  • Sacrificial Lamb:
    • Standard's sudden murder marks the film's jump from being a character study with a crime backdrop into becoming a full fledged violent crime movie.
    • Shortly after, Blanche's head getting blown apart with a shotgun signals that this movie means business.
  • The Scorpion And The Frog: Referenced by name by the Driver near the end of the film.
  • Shout-Out: To Halloween when Driver wears the rubber mask, as he kills Nino.
  • Smug Snake: Nino.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The movie cuts from Cliff Martinez's quiet, abstract score or '80s-esque pop music to extremely brutal action with a silent background.
  • The Stoic: Driver. Ticking him off results in a very small change in his overall manner. Destroying a man's face by repeatedly kicking him and then walking away like nothing happened qualifies for this trope.
  • Stunt Casting: Christina Hendricks as Blanche.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Bernie and Nino.
  • 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. 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.
  • Tranquil Fury: The Driver.
  • 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.
  • 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: Driver was seen to be involved with criminals, but his "I just drive" shtick keeps him mostly sympathetic, until we see his brutal side come about with...

 Driver: How about this: shut your mouth, or I'll kick your teeth down your throat and shut it for you.

  • Would Hit a Girl: The Driver, if you're lying to him.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The events of the second half of the film result from Nino's failed attempt at one of these.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Surprisingly averted. Its clear that Driver and Irene having feelings for each other but they're never act on it before or after her husband returns home. They kiss once later on but it's brief and after Standard has already been murdered.
  • Your Head Asplode: In slow mo, no less.
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