MOVIE REVIEWS

Driver

8/10 NR 01 hr 30 min

January 1, 1978

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Sparse Urban Magnificence.

The Driver is written and directed by Walter Hill. It stars Ryan O’Neil, Bruce Dern, Isabelle Adjani and Ronee Blakley. Music is by Michael Small and cinematography by Phillip H. Lathrop.

A determined cop pursues an enigmatic getaway driver through the crooked streets of Los Angeles…

It’s most amusing to now be able to look back at some of the reviews for The Driver back on its initial release. Without wishing to sound like a smarty pants myself of course, but some of them simply didn’t get it, they didn’t understand that Ryan O’Neil’s character was meant to be one note, unreadable and dissociated from society. There is a reason that the principal characters don’t have names, they are simply known as The Driver, The Detective and The Player, the core emotional worth of these people is a key aspect to the film’s strength. Where The Driver is emotionless and not for shaking, The Detective is a coiled spring waiting to explode, a law enforcer willing to do anything to capture his Moby Dick.

Much of the plaudits that come the film’s way tend to focus on the car action, which is perfectly understandable. The chase sequences are kinetic, the trial runs exhilarating, this is quite simply a fast car lovers dream as the stunt team lay fire to the streets of L.A. It’s also an influential film into the bargain, however, this is not purely an exercise in action over substance. For sure the story line is simple, but the themes simmering away are anything but simple. The thin line between law and lawlessness is observed, between calm and chaos there is but a hair’s breadth, the grey areas vivid in their textures. This is a cat and mouse thriller with a difference, even daring to risk the viewer’s ire with a crafty and low-key finale.

The script is in turns laconic and hard-boiled, the screenplay surprisingly convoluted in relation to how it all pans out. While the neo-noir vibe is further enhanced by Lathrop’s photography as the streetscapes pulse with urban realism. The acting doesn’t have to be top notch, the characters do not call for thesping of the method or board walking kind, they just need to get a handle on their respective traits that define them, and they do, perfectly so. A supremely cool movie, exciting and brawny as well, The Driver is a neo-noir gem. 9/10

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