The Driver (1978)   Leave a comment


Ryan O’Neal drives a mean getaway car.  His talent for eluding police creates a following on both sides of the law.  Gangs want him to drive for them while the LAPD, especially detective Bruce Dern, wants him to do time.  In Walter Hill’s (The Long Riders, The Warriors) spare crime film, we see O’Neal, The Driver, as a professional who lives by a code of ethics. He chooses who to work with based on this code, then delivers.  Dern, billed as The Detective, is his polar opposite.  Arrogant and sleazy, Dern proposes a deal with the leader of a second rate gang. In exchange for dropping the charges on a botched robbery, Dern wants the gang to rob a bank, hire O’Neal to drive, and then set him up to get busted.  The gang Dern chooses has a violent streak too and as the bodies pile up we’re left wondering who the real bad guy is.   The Driver boasts some great car chases and the director has fun panning from O’Neal’s deadpan expression back to his passengers’ panic stricken faces as he careens through the busy streets of Los Angeles.   Stark and emotionless, The Driver shows an honorable man retaining that honor despite pressure to give in.  The two female characters also fight coercion to turn stoolie. Both Ronee Blakley, The Connection who brokers The Driver’s gigs, and Isabelle Adjani, The Player who refuses to identify The Driver in a line-up, are morally superior to Dern’s dishonest cop.  I liked this film.  It reminded me of good modern architecture.  It had clean, simple lines but never looked sterile.



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