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"The Driver" is a specialist in a rare business: he drives getaway cars in robberies. His exceptional talent prevented him from being caught yet. After another successful flight from the police, a self-assured detective makes it his primary goal to catch the Driver. He promises remission of punishment to a gang if they help to convict him in a set-up robbery. The Driver seeks help from "The Player" (Isabelle) to mislead the detective. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
An overlooked film on an under-rated director's filmography.
Action specialist Walter Hill is in his element here with this tense, entertaining thriller that he both wrote and directed. Ryan O'Neal stars as a getaway driver for hire, who is hounded by offbeat detective Bruce Dern. Dern is dying to righteously bust O'Neal for something, but O'Neal is simply very good at his job. The detective will resort to any method necessary, but the driver is smart and seemingly always one step ahead of him.
One can hardly fail to notice the way that Hill deliberately doesn't personalize his characters too much, giving them descriptions or nicknames rather than proper names. And with the help of his very able cast, they create some very good character moments that are the real meat of this story. Its car chases are among the best you'll see in this genre, but serve to support the story instead of the story setting up the action set pieces. Hill again recalls styles from films of earlier decades - while, for example, his "Streets of Fire" was an ode to '50s rock 'n'roll, this film does owe a fair bit to the film noir of the '40s.
The people who populate this story are often all business, especially The Driver, who lives by his own code. There are things he'll do and things he won't do. Among other things, he employs a "witness" (French beauty Isabelle Adjani) and works with a "connection" (Ronee Blakley) who comes to him with job offers. The actors are all great, with the supporting cast also including Matt Clark and Felice Orlandi as Derns' fellow detectives, Joseph Walsh and Rudy Ramos as thieving lowlifes, and Bob Minor & Peter Jason in bit parts.
This tale is taut and convincing, told in a straightforward yet compelling manner; technically it's expertly done, with excellent editing by Tina Hirsch & Robert K. Lambert, cinematography by Philip H. Lathrop, and music by Michael Small. Hill's screenplay is full of interesting dialogue, especially in exchanges between Dern and Clark.
Hill has certainly done many fine and entertaining movies over the years, but this is one that tends to get overshadowed by his bigger hits such as "48 Hrs". It's a little gem worthy of discovery or re-discovery.
Eight out of 10.
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