Saviors can be found in the most unlikely of places. Even in a guy named Jesus.
“Jesus the Driver” tells the tale of Jesus (that’s hay-SOOS to us gringos), a good-hearted Mexican immigrant trying his best to make a living as a day-laborer so he can marry his sweetheart, Rosa (Roxann Dawson). One fateful day, while Jesus (Jesus Perez) waits with other hopefuls under an overpass for someone to drive up and offer work, a white Oldsmobile carrying Lance (Dayton Knoll) and Jerry (J.W. Wolterman) arrive with an offer he can’t refuse. $150 a day to be their driver. Not knowing how to drive, but desperate to make money for a wedding his hyper-critical mother-in-law would approve of, Jesus accepts the offer.
Lance and Jerry, however, aren’t such good-hearted folks. They’re thieves. Stupid ones, yes, but thieves nonetheless. Their last heist nabbed no money (the convenience store register was empty), so they stole a carload of junk food and beer. Jesus obligingly drives them to their next destination, but due to an unfortunate turn of events, he ends up being blamed for the robbery. Now, he can’t go home, he can’t marry Rosa, and he can’t find a way out of his predicament. Lance and Jerry, meanwhile, decide he’s their lucky rabbit’s foot and have no intention of letting him go.
As their capers progress, various people connected to Jesus begin receiving mysterious benefits in the mail, compliments of someone called “Jesus the Driver.” In addition, graffiti reading “Jesus the Driver” starts popping up all over town. The legend of a Mexican folk hero begins to emerge. Yet, Jesus himself wishes it would all just stop.
This film is riotously funny. The humor grows organically from the interaction among the three principals. All the characters are fully-fleshed people who engage and involve the audience on their own merits. This is due entirely to magnificent performances on the parts of all the main actors. Roxann Dawson’s Rosa is passionate and wise, loving her man despite his criminal status. J.W. Wolterman’s Jerry is a kind soul who, despite a lopsided moral code, wants to do right by his buddies. Dayton Knoll deserves particular notice for Lance, who in less talented hands could have devolved into farce. Instead, Knoll delivers a spot-on performance, finding the perfect balance between self-centered drive and naive idealism. And first-timer Jesus, while being constantly dumped upon, never becomes maudlin or self-pitying.
In all, “Jesus the Driver” finds a way to tell a tale that might seem superficial at first, but reveals a substance beyond synopses. The audience is treated to a story that is at once silly and surreal, tender and honest, funny and satirical. This entire cast and crew is a bunch to be watched in the future.