When in the magical movie emporium that was Covent Garden’s Cinema Store a few years back (sadly now defunct), I was somewhat taken aback to see an original US one-sheet poster for Walter Hill’s hard-nosed classic The Driver up for grabs.

I dithered, dallied and eventually balked at the £35 asking price (despite the promptings of my partner) but seeing the quality artwork did stir me enough into thinking I had to sit myself down and take this movie in again.

So I did – and I can happily report that second time around is just as good as the first. And, as I found out again this week – so is the third time.

The plot is simplistic to say the least – Ryan O’Neal plays the titular character, a cool as you like getaway driver in 70s LA.

Hot on his tail is a whatever-it-takes cop (Bruce Dern), who will seemingly stop at nothing to nail his quarry.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is about it.

Yes, there is a sub-plot of sorts involving Isabelle Adjani (who identifies O’Neal on a job but accepts a pay-off) but in all honesty this movie is about O’Neal, Dern and burning rubber.

In fact, and I can think of no better way to prove it than this, none of the characters in the film have a name – they are simply known as The Driver, The Cop, The Player etc.

The whole premise seems to have been put together by writer/director Hill in order to squeeze every last drop of coolness out of the concept, and boy do they deliver.

O’Neal – with shades, a sharp suit and a scowl, cuts an impressive figure and Dern’s borderline unhinged policeman is the perfect foil.

The script positively crackles with energy and the cinematography adds a nice dimension to night-time LA.

But, that aside, a film entitled The Driver has got to get it right on the screeching tyres and crunching gear changes right?

Indeed it does, and Hill sure knows how to angle an action sequence – in fact it would be no stretch to say roughly half of this movie is taken up by car chases.

In this day of modern CGI and all the shenanigans that go with it, it is great to just sit back and watch some stuff get smashed up for real, and it certainly does. in this opus.

If there is one minor quibble the final scene is somewhat weak, but not enough to detract from what has gone before it.

I urge any fans of cars, cool or classic cinema to check this out – and if any of you have sat through fare like Fast and Furious and thought ‘surely someone can do better than this’, well they already have – back in 1978.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.