Driver, The (1978)

The Driver (1978), written and directed by Walter Hill.

A cool, nearly silent driver provides getaway services for bank robbers. He gets a fee and a percentage but otherwise has nothing to do with the other crooks. The problem with crime is the people you have to deal with. He also contends with a hard-assed police detective who is not above setting up a bank job just to trap him.

Both expert and minimalist, it's a combination of action movie and ode to noirish tough guy films, with very exciting car chases and driving stunts. Our hero says little, where the obsessed detective tends to run his mouth and we don't like him for just that reason.

As I wrote in my review of Barry Lyndon (1975), I never gave Ryan O'Neal a fair chance. He has old-school acting skills, simultaneously tough and pretty, with the occasional little-boy-lost appeal that drives the ladies nuts.

Bruce Dern has always been a favorite. If he's going to be a policeman he has to be an oily, unlikeable one.

The beautiful and extremely French Isabelle Adjani is 23 here. My only other clear memory of her is as Queen Margot 16 years later. I had thought she was in the Matrix sequels, but that's wrong; I must have been thinking of Monica Bellucci.

I see several actors from Clint Eastwood's pictures and the gunshot sound effects are just like those from the Dirty Harry (1971) movies, but he was with a different studio and I can't find any crew crossover apart from the stunt coordinator.

Michael Small's score is a remarkable collection of styles, reminiscent of cool hardboiled classics, up through Quinn Martin TV series like The Fugitive and The Invaders (1967), to action themes like Lalo Schifren's, and even some shock chords like Jerry Goldsmith would use in Alien (1979).

Filmed in LA. The initial heist scenes are closely repeated in Drive (2011).

Available on Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray. Grainy image, good natural color and a deep black level. It is a very dark film and blacks sometimes seem crushed, but that may be the light level in the film itself. Isolated score and alternative 3 minute opening.

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