Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn made a name for himself with the brutal, proudly amoral Pusher trilogy, then successfully exported his personal brand of mayhem to the UK for the fact-based prison drama Bronson (2008). This feature marks his Hollywood debut, and though it easily surpasses most American action flicks, it suffers from the old commercial imperative of making the protagonist a nice guy, something Refn has seldom bothered with in Europe. Ryan Gosling plays an impassively cool wheelman who divides his time between movie stunt work and criminal jobs as a getaway driver; after falling (unpersuasively) for perky Carey Mulligan and her cute son, he defends them from ruthless crime lord Albert Brooks, who'll do anything to recover the cash-stuffed suitcase her husband stole. This stale premise, taken from a novel by James Sallis, kept reminding me of a Steve McQueen vehicle, and in fact Refn has named Bullitt (1968) as one reference point. The able supporting cast includes Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, and Ron Perlman.
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