This time, the movie really is based on the book of the same name, by James Sallis. The main character in Drive is Driver, so that's easy to remember. Well, Driver isn't actually his name, at least I don't think it is, but that's what everyone calls him. Hugh Jackman almost played the character, which would've been funny if he had, since his character in Australia was called Drover. Anyway, the character of Driver is actually played by Ryan Gosling of Fracture, and he does all right.

Driver, of course, drives. That's what he does, that's all he does, though sometimes he does work at a garage fixing cars instead of driving them. His boss there is Shannon, played by Bryan Cranston, who I reviewed just last week in Contagion. On the side, Shannon helps fix up cars for Driver's side job, and not the job he has doing stunt driving for Hollywood flicks. No, Driver also has a side job as a getaway driver. You get a five minute window, and whoever gets in the car by the end of those five minutes gets a tour of the streets of LA that they'll never forget. If they weren't all crooks and scoundrels, I'd feel sorry for them, because it really is a wild, scary ride, escaping from the cops.

Driver's neighbor is Irene, aka Carey Mulligan from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. She has an adorable little boy named Benicio and works as a waitress while waiting for Benicio's dad, Standard, to come home. I'm not sure why his parents named him Standard, but they did. He's played by Oscar Isaacs from Sucker Punch. Standard would rather be home, I'm sure, since when the film starts, Standard is in prison. They never say what he did, exactly, but prison being prison, he fell in with a bad crowd, and ended up owing them protection money. It's nice to know that some inmates can continue their trade while behind bars.

Since they didn't bother with contracts or anything, even though the place must have been full of the proverbial jailhouse lawyers, the amount of money keeps getting bigger and bigger at random intervals, and Standard is getting desperate. So Driver, despite the fact that he's obviously madly in love with Irene -- or perhaps because of that fact -- agrees to use his particular skill set to help him out. His creditors want Standard to pull off one simple little robbery, and then his debt will be wiped clean.

Obviously it's all much too simple and things have to go horribly wrong. Somewhere up the food chain from the people that Standard owes are Bernie Rose, played by Albert Brooks from Weeds, and Nino, played by Ron Perlman, Conan the Barbarian's dad. Nino is bitter because he gets no respect from the Family, because he's Jewish and he runs a pizzeria as a cover for all his illegal activities. He also swears a lot. I don't know if I could quote more than one short sentence from him without having to resort to a lot of asterisks.

I expected some violence from this movie, obviously. There's the bit in the trailer with Ryan Gosling walking around with a hammer in his hand, and the scene where he has a terrible fight with a guy in an elevator, and no matter how hard Driver tries to avoid anything like guns, he's hanging out with criminals, so you know that's doomed to failure. This logic, however, does not prepare a person for the actual intensity of the violence on the screen. It isn't constant, it isn't even often, but when it does happen, it's terrible. Twice I not only jumped, I almost screamed. And there's never just a little bit of blood. It's all or nothing, and by all, I mean all. There's about five liters of blood in a human body, but when it's spread all over the screen, it looks like a lot more.

I saw a headline that said something about Drive: Too European for America?, which amused me since one of the characters, mentioning that he used to be in the movie business, says that people called his films "European" even though he thought they were crap. It isn't a crappy film by any means, but it is unusual for an American film. People stare at each other silently for several seconds before answering relatively simple questions. Like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, only a little more so. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure the violence is pure Los Angeles, so not at all European there.

In short -- I know, too late -- it might not be quite what you expect, but it's still a good movie. Three and three-quarters out of five good, in fact. Just remember to hold on tightly to those Milk Duds. Or better yet, don't try eating during this film at all.

Driver, Irene, and Benicio out driving, because what else would they do?


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