What do you get when you cast pretty, popular, Oscar-nominated actor Ryan Gosling in a violent action thriller, directed by gritty director Nicholas Refn, featuring a stirring performance by celebrated writer/director/comedian Albert Brooks? A critically acclaimed potential award candidate, that's what.

"Drive" is the story of an intense, introverted driver-for-hire (Gosling) who is an automobile stuntman for Hollywood pictures by day and a getaway man for armed crooks by night. All is going relatively well until Gosling's driver becomes involved with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and offers to help her estranged ex-convict husband, who wants to rid himself of unpaid debts to a group of dangerous criminals (one of whom is Brooks). Naturally, things get heated and really violent.

With a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, most critics are enjoying the violent intensity of the film and the performances. So let's dig a little deeper into the "Drive" reviews:

Gosling As Gritty Action Star
"Ryan Gosling's incarnation of the hauntingly lonely Driver is a beautifully realized, complete performance. He understands not just the psychology of the character, but how he fits into the tone and pacing of the film as a whole; he and Refn seem to be partnering as director and actor, the way Laura Dern partners with David Lynch or Julianne Moore with Todd Haynes. I've read that Gosling first approached Refn, gave him the James Sallis novel this is based on and proposed turning it into a film. If true, this indicates two promising things about Gosling's future: He has both good taste and a keen sense of what projects he should take on as an actor. Here, this almost excessively beautiful performer is in complete control of his own considerable magnetism. In a role that could have flattered his vanity and allowed for all manner of ostentatious brooding, Gosling instead quietly dives into the emotional black hole at Driver's center, and takes us along for the ride." — Dana Stevens, Slate.com

The Direction
"Refn, a Danish director whose previous films include 'Bronson' and 'Valhalla Rising,' is known for his love of blood, and when the plot of 'Drive' quickens he finds plenty of chances to indulge in his penchant for lurid, stylized violence. But even his most fetishized flourishes are tempered here, not just with the tender love story between Irene and Driver but with Refn's newfound restraint (one pivotal murderous episode occurs entirely in shadow)." — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

The Violence
"Less user-friendly is the film's disturbing violence. 'Drive' doesn't spend a lot of time on mayhem, but what does get put on screen is intense, unsettling and increasingly grotesque and graphic as the film goes on. For fans of director Refn, known among chaos aficionados for made-in-Europe violent fare like 'The Pusher' trilogy and 'Bronson,' this is bloody business as usual. But the mayhem here so clashes with the high style and traditionalism of the rest of the film that when the bloodletting goes into overdrive, so to speak, it throws you out of the picture, diluting the mood rather than enhancing it." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

The Final Word, Pro-Con Style
"There will be those who'll say they liked this movie better when it was 'Thief,' Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Le Samouraï,' Walter Hill's 'The Driver,' or any very good Hong Kong action thriller. But Refn's version produces a similar high. A friend who hated 'Drive' complained that it's a European telling us what he thinks American movies are: Kiss kiss bang bang. I see her point. We do more than kiss and bang. But this is just a genre Europe — OK, the French — used to excel at and no longer do. Refn won the director's prize at Cannes in May, and France's enthusiasm suggests what they're missing from their movies. Meanwhile, 'Drive' confirms that the smooth, blunt Refn is exactly what's been missing from ours." — Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe

"Before long, and then with grinding relish, 'Drive' becomes one garishly sadistic set piece after another. Refn and screenwriter Hossein Amini, adapting the novella by James Sallis, don't have the interest or the guts to examine Driver from the inside, if there is one. The sanctimonious '80s-sounding pap on the soundtrack keeps singing about "heroes" and the little guy. When an unlucky accomplice gets her head blasted by a shotgun, the imagery politely points your attention to how the blood on the wallpaper contrasts with the green of the palm tree outside, against the blue sky. Refn has a compositional eye and considerable craft, as was clear in the earlier "Bronson." He's also a bit of an airhead when it comes to the moral implications of the brutality he portrays." — Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

Check out everything we've got on "Drive."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.