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“You know the story about the scorpion and the frog? Your friend Nino didn’t make it across the river.”- Ryan Gosling as Driver

Bottom line: With a powerfully stylized mix of abrupt violence, fascinating imagery and well placed music, “Drive” is aesthetic action at its finest.

Director Nicholas Winding Refn throws viewers back several decades with a sleek ode to the spirit of 80s action cinema — but with a modern setting. Fast cars and mobsters are everywhere, but somehow a pleasant feminine side finds its way into the action.

The violence escalates at a slow rate, but when it peaks, some might find it off-putting. “Drive” is a sharp shot of adrenaline with an unpredictable nature, and is neither a character study or an inflated action movie. “Drive” is simply a fun ride for both the intellectual viewer and gritty action fanatics.

Ryan Gosling stars as the “Driver,” a hired wheelman in Los Angeles. Whether it’s Hollywood stunt driving or steering getaway vehicles for armed heists, our Driver is talented behind a wheel. Though a loner at heart, he falls for the girl next door, Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young mother who’s ex-convict husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), drags her into the dangerous criminal underworld of L.A.

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Driver can’t help but throw himself into the equation, volunteering to be the driver in Standard’s next heist. The mission quickly goes wrong, and Driver finds himself frantically trying to protect the girl he loves while a trail of deadly mobsters are after his head.

Gosling has proven he has a gift for finding powerful characters and highlighting the most fascinating aspects about them — even if it’s just their appearance. He’s one of the few actors who can be exceptional without having to say much.

The tone is anything but the same from start to finish. The romanticism of the beginning takes a drastic shift to the artistically suspenseful action film we define it as at the end.

“Drive” has what many “vehicle action” films don’t: A brain. It’s far more astute and imaginative than what’s expected from the genre today. With minimal CGI usage, “Drive” looks more real than you would expect it to as well. There is a high level of respect here for film fans, but the creative writing and talented cast easily satisfy the casual moviegoer.

Fun fact: Despite the driving themes, director Nicolas Winding Refn does not have any interest in cars. He doesn’t hold a driving license and has failed his driving test eight times.

Run time: 101 min.

MPAA rating: R

Rotten Tomatoes: 93 percent

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