Ryan Gosling stars as a wheelman in “Drive.”

courtesy of FilmDistrict/Bold Films/OddLot Entertainment

There is an element of the absurd prevalent throughout the second half of “Drive” that audiences will either accept and love, or absolutely hate. Surprisingly, I went along for the ride and wound up having fun in spite of my reservations.

“Drive” is an action/adventure film starring Ryan Gosling. 2011 is one heck of a year for the handsome and talented actor. Earlier this year, he scored huge as a likeable womanizer in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” a highlight of which was his baring his ripped abs. (Sorry ladies, he’s clothed throughout this newest flick.) On Oct. 7, he will star alongside George Clooney in “The Ides of March.”

For now, he’s doing the action anti-hero thing in “Drive,” which came in third in last week’s box office draws (The 3-D remake of “The Lion King” beat out all the competition to come in first place.).

Gosling plays a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night. Though a loner by nature, he can’t help falling in love with his beautiful neighbor, a vulnerable young mother (played by Carey Mulligan), who has a young son and a habit of choosing the wrong men.

The two are attracted to each other, but there is a major complication – the mom is still married and her husband will be released from jail any day. Soon, they are dragged into a dangerous underworld by the ex-convict husband.

After a heist intended to pay off the husband’s protection money spins unpredictably out of control, Gosling finds himself driving defense for the girl he loves, tailgated by a syndicate of deadly serious criminals.

I was drawn into the film and its lead character right off the bat, as the audience is introduced to Gosling’s cool, calculating demeanor driving a getaway car for two thieves. Despite cop cars breathing down his neck, Gosling stays emotionless. His mind races five steps ahead of the game in order to elude capture.

The first real emotion we observe is a slight smile when he sees Mulligan. Gosling is interesting to watch here. Sure, he’s easy on the eye, but it’s more than that. He is portraying a criminal, but he’s a likeable one. Gosling’s face and body language don’t reveal much, but when they do, you observe another facet of his character’s personality.

His character doesn’t develop as much as reveal itself as the story unfolds. And I believed him, despite some odd circumstances that had much of the audience shaking its head and either laughing off the absurdities or muttering curse words under their breath.

I also appreciated the subtle plot twists and visual surprises, and the thuggish characters played by veteran actors Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman.

Be warned, however, the film has more than its share of blood and violence.

The film is rated R for strong brutal, bloody violence; language and some nudity. Running time: 100 minutes.

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