I make jokes about certain movies being to my taste, and, yes, I am more likely to go see movies about superheroes, etc... But I also like well thought-out, taught crime movies, and Drive is most certainly one of these.
The movie doesn't just know exactly what it is, its hyper-aware of its roots both narratively and stylistically in the late-70's, early-80's and works both within and marginally outside the framework of those movies. Perhaps suggesting there are no new stories, it also reaches back to certain elements that those 70's and 80's movies could trace back to Noir, and crime movies like The Big Heat or 1947's Kiss of Death (edit: upon reflection, I'd be remiss to not mention This Gun for Hire as a sort of primordial influence), wherein the manipulations of criminals and the needs of those outside their worlds get crossed.
Yeah, the driving in the movie is pretty great, but I think its the storyline and performances that sell it. Its an oddly understated movie for the first half, actually giving you a reason to care - something movies like Too Fast, Too Furious couldn't begin to wrap their mutton heads around, or that the average Jason Statham vehicle misses by a country mile.
When the violence does erupt, director Nicolas Winding Refn doesn't shy away from the brutality of what's happening. There's no romanticized "ballet of violence" as we've become accustomed to in most American movies over the last 15 years (nor the "kids playing guns" approach of the Schwarzenegger era). It could be said to play for shock value if every act of violence didn't just up the stakes of the story and push our lead, played by Gosling, further and further into a corner.
Refn's vision is complete in a way I don't see out of many younger directors these days, with everything from the color of traffic lights telling part of the story to the choice of titles and musical selections winding throughout the film.
The movie clearly cost nowhere near what a Transformers film or even a Fast & Furious franchise installment would set back the studio. I'm not naive enough to think studios will take note of the narrative success of the film, or to think the marketers have done enough to get the word out that this isn't a standard actioner. It likely won't kill at the box office. But you can hope for the best.
The cast is very good, of course. Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac, and both Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling (whom I'd never seen) were pretty great.
Anyhow, I'm recommending those of you who can deal with some blood in your movies check this one out while its still at the theater.