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Dreamy, bloody, and hollow, Drive's pretty to the point of vanity.

Nicolas Winding Refn (USA, Special Presentations)

Saturday, September 10, 9:15 p.m.
Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard Street East)

Sunday, September 11, 3 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)

Drive builds from the vibrant cine-tableaus of Refn’s Bronson, imagining a dreamy, neon-noir Los Angeles that seems to stir in the sleep of cinema itself. Refn’s influences are patent, from the romantic dream-pop score (anchored by repeat uses of College’s “Real Hero”) recalling Michael Mann’s Thief, the central plot convention lifted from Don Siegel’s Charley Varrick, and the stilted dialogue and densely shadowy colour palette suggesting David Lynch’s L.A. pictures (Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr.). But where Lynch’s film’s use their style and self-consciously stilted quality to stoke a kind of cinematic psychological fugue state, Drive just whips around, attempting to lap its own prettiness.

At the centre of this prettiness is hunk-du-jour Ryan Gosling, playing a nameless Hollywood stunt driver moonlighting as a getaway-car wheelman. When a job goes awry and he ends up accidentally ripping off an L.A. crime boss (Ron Perlman), Gosling’s Man With No Name must race around attempting to protect his employer (Bryan Cranston) and love interest (Carey Mulligan) from another, different L.A. crime boss (Albert Brooks, scary and excellent). Refn’s knack for hallucinatory, symphonic displays of gore is unmatched, and, no doubt, his action scenes are masterfully deployed (especially the heart-stopping prologue). But it’s hard to care much about an overcooked, hysterically arty film that doesn’t seem to care about anything itself.