A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this superbly made crime drama (which won the prestigious Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival) starts off quietly but eventually contains shocking amounts of violence, including a woman's head getting blown apart by a shotgun blast and the main character stomping a man's head until it squashes like a pumpkin. Language is also very strong, with multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "p---y." Several women are topless in one long scene, and the two main characters have a romantic relationship even though she's already married. The main character is a criminal without many redeeming qualities, but he's still fascinating.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The "driver" (Ryan Gosling) drives stunt cars for the movies by day -- and by night he hires out his services for criminals who need getaway cars. He works with hard-luck-but-cheerful mechanic Shannon (Bryan Cranston) on both jobs. He's incredibly skilled, lives a quiet, simple, Zen-like life, and has all his bases covered -- until he meets his pretty neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). When Irene's husband is released from prison, the driver reluctantly agrees to help him on a job that will get him out of debt and out of trouble. But everything goes wrong, and the fallout leads back to a pair of sinister thugs (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman). Can the driver steer a way out of this mess?
Is it any good?
Danish-born director Nicolas Winding Refn isn't exactly a household name, but he might be after DRIVE; he might also elicit comparisons to Quentin Tarantino, which would be entirely deserved. Drive is steeped in movies, especially moody 1980s films by Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, and William Friedkin, as well as any genre films about stoic, secretive heroes -- but at the same time it feels like something new. Its style prevails over its substance, but what style!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of the movie's extreme violence. How does it compare to what you see in horror movies? Which is more upsetting? Why?
Is the main character a "hero"? Are viewers meant to find him sympathetic even though he's a criminal? What makes "bad guy" characters compelling?
What is the movie's attitude toward women? What are the female characters like? Are they three-dimensional?
Is the little boy in this movie ever in true danger, or is the danger only suggested? What's the difference?
- In theaters: September 16, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 30, 2012
- Cast: Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Ryan Gosling
- Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
- Studio: FilmDistrict
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
For kids who love action and crime stories
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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