You might not see it when Ryan Gosling is doing a man makeover on Steve Carell and wooing Emma Stone in "Crazy, Stupid, Love," or when he's wringing tears from audiences over his romance with Rachel McAdams in "The Notebook," but if you follow the Oscar-nominated actor closely, you know that he has a distinct dark side that rears its handsome head in numerous indies. And critics, if not audiences, seem to love it.
Both critics and audiences will get a big old bowlful of bad in his latest deep, dark indie effort, "Drive."
Gosling may be competing against himself in theaters: His character is currently giving serial seduction instruction in "Crazy Stupid Love" at the cineplex, while over at your local art house theater, Gosling will be driving a getaway car and stealing Carey Mulligan's heart in the dark, violent and compelling "Drive."
Gosling, who received his Oscar nomination for the strung-out wrestling coach in "Half Nelson," also played the simpleton brother who crushes on a blow-up doll in "Lars and the Real Girl" and most recently, played Michelle Williams' conflicted husband in "Blue Valentine." These are the films that gain Gosling critical attention, if not big bucks at the box office.
"Drive" is another labor of love for Gosling, and it's reminiscent of the critically acclaimed "Blue Valentine," partially because wide-eyed, frail Mulligan could be interchangeable with Williams. His chemistry is incendiary with both: What's left unsaid is more powerful than what is spoken. He even manages formidable chemistry with his male co-stars: a couple of Jewish crime lords played by Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks, who has never been better, and three-time Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston as a good mechanic gone bad.
The Driver's day job is movie stunts. But in his off-hours, he mans the best getaway car in L.A. His precariously balanced life topples when he tries to save the family of his fragile neighbor, played by Mulligan. If you loved "The Notebook," you'll probably hate "Drive." While the violence is used sparingly, it's brutal and graphic.
"Driver is literally psychotic, you know?" says Gosling in movie publicity materials. "A Travis Bickle, 'Taxi Driver'-kind of character. Beneath all of that eerie outward calm, there is this reservoir of raging energy and hair-trigger violence." Neither you, nor Mulligan's Irene, want this gorgeous, sensitive guy to be so brutal, but he is.
And you might not want to see this gorgeous, sensitive actor star in such a brutal, gritty flick, but he does. In fact, he and the critics eat the role up.