The Driver Reviews
Cinema has always had an on/off love affair with silence. The 70`s were almost the second silent era, in a decade when American television blabbered away. And today? You may compare the original and the remake of The Mechanic. The first knows that silence is a powerful tool. The second is just grunts between the rumble.
Bring on the roaring 80`s. Jack Nicholson became a set of eyebrows, Al Pacino a boombox, McQueen died and O`Neal all but vanished. Adapt or die. Rather funny that director Walter Hill ended up making 48 Hrs. with Eddie Murphy in his motormouth prime.
Before we silence the talk: The Driver confirms that sitting next to Isabelle Adjani during a car chase is the best thing in the world.
Typical 70's smultz.
Feels more like a TV show with bad detectives, bad car chases, um, spectacular car chases - lol.
Because this is the kind of film that has the audacity to respond to its own artifice. The characters don't have names: they are things, carrying around labels like, ahem, The Driver, The Detective, etc., and they don't exist to do anything besides what their title entails. Conversations ring with the pulp chintziness of a tête-à-tête between a femme fatale and an anti-hero circa 1946; the performances are not so much performances as they are imitations of classic character types.
Which is why "The Driver's" relative success is all the more impressive. It survives as an exercise in attitude, sometimes appearing to be, in itself, a comment on a genre that oftentimes struggles to stand above the tragedies that come along with sinking to formula. In the midst of its observation are we left with a lean, mean, and exquisitely tough thriller, intelligent in its crafting and more than a little exceptional in its delivery. It should be slight, pretentious even. But it concocts an astonishingly slick atmosphere Nicolas Winding Refn would kill to recreate, and it's hopeless for us to withstand its roguish magnetism.
"The Driver" finds its titular figure in Ryan O'Neal, a defining actor of his generation whose then-waning popularity perfectly suits the world weary persona of the man he's playing. His Driver is a man we've perhaps always dreamed of one day living as - a rebel on the wrong side of the law with the good sense to never get caught. He specializes in driving getaway cars, an unconventional job that pays off both monetarily and in reputation. He's one of the best in his slim field, and is gaining notoriety on both sides of the tracks.
The Driver is provided with all his jobs by The Connection (Ronee Blakley), a slinkily confident small-time crime boss, and his given his alibis by The Player (Isabelle Adjani), with whom he appears to have some sort of romantic interest (though we never really find out if such a notion is embedded in the truth). He could very well continue with his sinful career until the day he dies. But with the viciously ambitious The Detective (Bruce Dern) committed to stopping him dead in his tracks, The Driver's days of perpetuating neighborhood crime could be coming to a close.
But it's clear that these said days will never come to a close - these characters, all memorably portrayed by a satisfactorily disparate ensemble, will always have a place in the movies. There will always be a man like The Driver, a man like The Detective, and there will always be women of the distinct brands of The Player and The Connection. An endless game of cat-and-house is something we can always expect in the thriller genre, particularly in ones that get their jollies through car chases and badass attitudes.
So maybe "The Driver" would be more tiresome, more eye-rollingly predictable, if not for Walter Hill's coordinating of it all. Here is an auteur with a clear-eyed appreciation for film noir, for suspense, and for action. But unlike so many filmmakers who try to get away with a wispily tense ambience, Hill is an assured director and an assured storyteller, so much so that we're sure we're witnessing something original and not totally rehashed. And since "The Driver" is, essentially, a greatest hits collection of workable tropes, that's something to be proud of.
The score is a weird blend of Schifrin and Cooder, which seems to fit in with writer/director Walter Hill's later dependence on Ry Cooder for his scores.
Car chases aplenty mind you, and very nice they are too; particularly given that all of it is real drivers driving real cars on real streets.