Although we at Love Horror love horror films, some films from other genres are so good you have to break the rules. And The Driver is one of those films.
Massively influential on modern action movies from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive to the Fast and Furious series, Walter Hill’s The Driver is action perfection and still remains one of the ultimate car-chase films.
Opening on a casino heist and the epic getaway that ensues we are introduced to Ryan O’Neal’s cool, calm and highly skilled character a man with no name simply referred to as The Driver.
Bruce Dern’s detective who has set up a task force to take him down calls him by another name, Cowboy, due to The Drivers love of country and western music and his disrespectful attitude to the law, running riot in the Los Angeles streets like they were the Wild West.
What the police don’t know is that although he is available to anyone looking for the fastest wheels around and willing to pay his fee The Driver has a deep set moral code that criminals and cops should never cross.
It seems however that this Detective will do anything to catch his prey legal or otherwise and so begins a dangerous race to see who will triumph and who will crash and burn.
The Driver sits firmly among the canon of classic car movies including Bullitt, The French Connection, Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point and the original Gone in 60 Seconds all of which revel in the mixture of man and machine delivering dangerous driving and stupendous stunts.
With three awe inspiring set pieces packed with four wheeled fury the action is not only foot to the floor fun but beautifully filmed with wonderful wide shots, car POV’s that give the viewer a real sense of speed and a slow car stalking scene which is drenched in tension with the sparse use of music throughout upping the intensity.
It’s not just about the action however and exploding into cinemas in 1978 writer and director Walter Hill (the man responsible for cult classic The Warriors and 80’s blockbusters 48 Hrs. and Red Heat) drew on many disparate influences in crafting the characters and look of his film to create a high speed hybrid that would go onto to inspire generations of movies, computer games and TV shows to come.
Merging elements from traditional Westerns, Film Noir and the French New Wave Hill created a neo-noir as stylish and slick as it is stark and seminal. The Driver’s nameless and mostly silent anti-hero fighting his inner demons and outer underworld enemies can be seen in so many modern day stories but rarely as well realized as in O’Neil’s perfect pared down performance.
He is excellently set against Dern’s obsessive maniacal detective who slips further into corruption and chaos as he is consumed by the chase even resorting to breaking his own laws and ostracizing his own team to take The Driver down.
Alongside them both is Isabelle Adjani enigmatic and desperate femme fatale who is thrown into The Driver’s path by accident and quickly gets caught up in the destructive game of cat and mouse being played out.
A must see for all action fans and motor movie enthusiast as well cinephiles seeking the inspiration behind many current directors violent visions Walter Hill is an action movie master and with its great performances and amazing car chases The Driver still feels and looks as good as it ever did especially in this brilliant Blu-ray release.