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Movies, Reviews

DVD Review: THE DRIVER

02.01.07 | 1 Comment

I was really looking forward to The Driver, by all accounts a tense little crime drama from 1978. The Continental Op and the Nameless Detective are, of course, famous for never being named, but this film one-ups them: nobody gets a name. Instead we have Ryan O’Neal as The Driver, Bruce Dern as The Detective, and Isabelle Adjani as The Player.

The story: O’Neal is the best getaway driver in the business. Dern is out to bag him, even if it means bending the law as far as it will bend. And that’s pretty much it.

Like many films from the seventies, The Driver is told as more through images than dialog, with only Dern getting a chance to ramble on, which he does (let’s hope the scenery was fat-free). A good approach for this kind of minimalist noir, which left me with high hopes.

Too bad the movie sucked.

First of all, it appears to be heavily influenced by the French film Le Samourai, in which the main character had a less sympathetic job as a hired killer. Both that character and The Driver live in squalor despite the fact they must be well-paid; both present a blank face to the world; both raise their competence to the level of a virtue. But where Jef in Samourai eventually showed a little humanity and a little desperation, O’Neal remains the same stony character at the end that he is at the beginning.

And one scene *totally* rips off The Getaway.

Adjani does nothing but pout her way through this role, showing all the dramatic range of a dishrag, which is strange since she was just spectacular in One Deadly Summer only a couple of years later. O’Neal never lets us see inside his character; if all his grim, silent staring had been cut, the running time would be fifteen minutes shorter. And there’s not really much of a twist at the end.

Only Dern and Ronnee Blakely (in a small part as O’Neal’s booking agent) really do anything on screen.

So, sadly, I can’t recommend this movie. See Le Samourai instead. Or read The Wheelman.

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