This weekend, girls who bow to pin-ups of Ryan Gosling and dudes who are anticipating a Fast & Furious knockoff are in for one hell of an awakening. Unlike the film being sold in its glossy and accessible-looking commercials, Drive (in theaters Friday) is, in fact, an artistically daring, unconventionally designed spectacle, pulsating with a soundtrack of modern-day '80s pop music, airtight pacing, and sporadic outbursts of extreme violence that might upset snooty critics if the scenes weren’t so visually stunning.

The credit for that goes to director Nicolas Winding Refn, the esteemed Danish filmmaker behind non-mainstream standouts like the crime thriller Pusher (1996), the maniacal biopic Bronson (2008), and the expressionistic and brutal Viking flick Valhalla Rising (2009).

With Drive, the story of an enigmatic getaway driver (Gosling) who falls in love and gets entangled in a heist gone bad, Refn is making his Hollywood debut, and we couldn’t be happier. Not enough big studio movies feature scenes in which a guy gets his head kicked to mush, especially when the kicker is an A-list star such as Gosling. Set in an elevator, the sequence in question has already earned a growing bit of infamy amongst festival attendees and critics; the rep should only grow bigger once Drive opens later this week.

The question is, though, how does the gruesome beatdown in Refn’s film stack up against cinema’s nearly unwatchable (in a good way) ass-kickings? Quite high, actually. To relive every cracked skull and bruise, check out the competition with our countdown of The 10 Most Vicious Beatings In Movies. Ice packs, stretchers, and body bags not included.

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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