Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks (of all people) is a taught, film noir drama set in Los Angeles.  It’s one of these dark movies where almost everyone is bad and everything, no matter how well-intentioned, will blow up in the characters’ faces.  And although everyone raves about this movie, it’s good, but not THAT good.  Portions are just a little too clever by half.

Gosling plays the Driver, who has no name.  By day, he’s a part time stuntman, by night he’s a getaway driver, ala a lower rent version of The Transporter.  Cranston plays Shannon, is injured mechanic and mentor, who gets him jobs and keeps his cars working.  Shannon is friends with Bernie and Nino (Brooks and Perlman), two Jewish gangsters. That’s a cool throw back to the Jewish gangsters of old.  Shannon goes to them for a loan to by a stock car, so that Gosling can drive and make their lives good.

Along the way, he meets Irene (Mulligan), a single mom living in his apartment building.  Suddenly smitten, the two begin what might blossom into a romance until Irene’s husband unexpectedly gets out of prison.  Still smitten, Gosling decides to help her husband on a robbery to finally sever all ties with his criminal past.  An awesome set up.  It does take a while to get there though, so get comfortable.  Much of the movie is slow paced.

The style, acting and tone are all right on the mark.  Terse dialogue and slow, but deliberate pacing.  The movie goes wrong in the practical matter of the events.  It sacrifices pragmatic reality for a cool scene.

For instance, there’s a scene where the Driver is stalking one of the gangsters.  The gangster owns a pizzeria.  He finds him there having a wild party with his gangster friends, in a suit with some hot chicks.  This doesn’t ring true for a gangster.  What sort of thug, concerned only with his money and ego, throws a party in his dump of a pizzeria?  I don’t have money and I could do better than a pizzeria for a party.  I guess the film makers were looking to save a few bucks, but it just comes off as odd.  Also, the movie goes out of its way to make sure the Driver does most of his action with a car, which begins to get a little far-fetched by the end of the movie.

And while Ron Perlman always makes a convincing, evil bastard, it’s kind of sad to see Albert Brooks do this role.  It’s not that he’s bad, he’s just Albert Brooks, Nemo’s dad, killing people, cursing and being an evil thug.  It’s just odd.

Finally, the crimes are a little vague.  You’re never quite sure just where the money came from or why the gangsters keep killing each other over it.  Maybe it’s because I happen to know a great deal about organized crime, but first, the East Coast mobster is from Philly.  Even the most basic research on the Philly mob shows that raising the kind of capital stolen in the movie would be tough and why a mobster would bring so much cash out to L.A. to let it get stolen is beyond me.  But assuming that could happen, it’s a little vague whether or not the mob guy in question (never seen) is a made guy or not.  That makes all the difference in the world.  If the guy is not made, he’s most likely on his own to get his cash back.  If he is a made guy, chances are he’d have Family members descend down upon the offending parties quickly with a vengeance.

So an unlikely scenario is posited, the scary Philly gangster is alluded to as the driving force behind much of the killing, but you never see him, so the threat does not feel real.

Fortunately, the focus of the movie is on the relationship between the Driver and Irene.  Since that carries the weight of the movie, the other details can mostly be overlooked.  The final fight is odd and kind of unbelievable considering the previous scenes, but the ending is good.

So, in conclusion, there’s lots to see here, but it’s not perfect.  I give Drive 7 out of 10 keggers.  Although it tries a little too hard, overall, it’s a good movie worth seeing.