The audience that sits down to see Drive may expect to see a heist movie, but they will quickly become absorbed in a film that has more in common with a classic Western than a high-octane chase film.
Ryan Gosling stars as a character known only as the Driver, a Hollywood stunt man by day and criminal get-away driver by night. He lives alone in a run-down apartment, one of those strong men of few words types that the ladies love. The lady in question is his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), mother to a little boy.
Just as the two develop a chaste but deep bond, her jailbird husband comes home. He is a man who just wants a second chance to do right by his wife and child, but his past catches up with him. It leads to a robbery that goes horribly wrong, leaving the Driver with a list of evil people who must die if innocent Irene and her son are to live in peace.
Rated R, the film is shockingly violent, with the Driver's righteous killings shown in full gore. There is also a lot of profane language and some nudity.
Through the haze of blood, however, Gosling effectively pulls off a classic character: a powerful but quiet man with the will to take on the worst criminals on their own turf on behalf of a woman and child from whom he expects nothing.
Like a Clint Eastwood or John Wayne character, the brooding Driver finds some atonement for his violence in the continued safety of those he protects. His driving gloves replace the white hat and fast cars take the place of fast horses, but underneath, his heart is the same.