Archive for the ‘The Driver’ Tag

The Driver (1978)   Leave a comment


Ryan O’Neal drives a mean getaway car.

His talent for helping robbers and eluding the 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 wil do anything to bust The Driver. To catch O’Neal, 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. Unfortunately, the gang Dern chooses has a violent streak and as the bodies pile up we’re left wondering who the real bad guy is.

The Driver boasts some great car chases and Hill 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. It would be great paired with Michael Mann’s spare crime film, Thief. Both films pit loner crooks against the system and both feature good bad guys who break the law, but still have a moral compass.

The two female characters also fight temptation and threats 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 like The Driver. It reminds me of good modern architecture. It has clean, simple lines but doesn’t look sterile.


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