The Cowboy (Ryan OíNeal), a getaway driver with one last job to do that can either kill him or lock him up for the next 15 years. The fanatical, corrupt Detective (Bruce Dern), using every dirty trick in the book to nail the Cowboy, that has never been caught.
The protagonist Cowboy (Ryan OíNeal) enters a parking-lot complex, he sees the car he is after, hot wires it and the action is set for the next 91 minutes. OíNealís character is thestrong, silent type. The Driver can easily be compared to any western by Sergio Leone, only the horses are the cars. There are no character development, neither of them are coming to some epic relation, itís just action! The Cowboyís dialogues are sparse compared to the Detective (Bruce Dern) who spends most of the film yelling and beating any criminal he can find that might have a connection with the Cowboy.
To see Bruce Dern in the role of the Detective is a true master-class on how to portrait a bad guy without breaking a sweat. He seems to have been built from the shapes and demons of Danteís seven circles of hell. The Detectiveís obsession of capturing the Cowboy leaves him neither caring nor feeling; anything can be sacrificed. His partners want to get as far away from him as possible.
The car chases are on par with French Connection and Bullitt. To a certain extent The Driverís car chases could actuallly surpass the above two. Walter Hill and the cinematographer, Philip H. Lathrop, have concentrated on a minimum of camera angles, not overpowering the chase scenes, this way you actually feel like you are driving shotgun.
The reason for less angles is also obvious since this was a low-budget film to start with so extra cameras were too much money: compromises were made. Then again looking at big budget movies today you realize that the more cameras and equipment you get, the less exciting the final result is. If you make a movie on a low-budget you need to know what you a shooting and for how long. Creativity comes from knowing and understanding theequipment you got at hand.
The editing feels economical, like every frame they shot was used, nothing is thrown away. The editing is to the point without cut away to just empty streets. There is a movement inevery scene and cut that pushes the story forward at every sharp turn and back alley.
There are some fantastic crosses and double crosses in this film, that will leave you on the edge of your seat. You feel you have figured out the plot in the first act but two seconds later, your whole conclusion is thrown out the window. For the ones who played The Driver on PS1, they should recognize a couple of scenes in this film, especially the beginning. They have borrowed tremendously from the film for the game but that is why the game was such a big hit. The film was fantastic so the game should be good right...? In this case itís right! This was Walter Hillís second film as a director, and we can truly see that Hard Times (1975) was the training film before he took his directing and style to the next level with The Driver in 1978. One year later, in 1979, The Warrior hit the cinemas and Hill was a force to be reckon with and he still is. This film was intended to be 2 hours long with more character development and car chases. Walter Hill only showed the 2 hours long cut of the film in an unknown theater in Hollywood. Yours truly really hopes they are planning to put out a special edition of the The Driver on DVD; if there is one film that needs to be made available to new generations, this would be high on the list!
The orange Mercedes car that was totaled by the Cowboy was bought at an auction by independent British movie car collector, Ian Jackson. The price was in the region of £9,000,000!
The Driver is a massive and fantastic action film by one of the best action directors of all time, Walter Hill.