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After seeing last year's Baby Driver and learning that both that and 2011's Drive were inspired by this 1978 neo noir film by Walter Hill, I knew I had to see it because I love the mystique of those two movies.
Watching The Driver, it's easy to see where the inspiration comes from. Hell, Drive and Baby Driver might as well be this movie's sons all grown up. Yet, somehow, I found The Driver to be an even tighter and, indeed, cooler movie than either of those films which I loved. It's like the middle ground between two extremes, the dark subtlety and moodiness of Drive and the quirky, adrenaline-fueled mayhem of Baby Driver.
This movie's brilliance lies in its simplicity. You're given just enough information about every character and what they're doing. The dialogue is effectively concise. And the various car stunts they pull off in this movie are all dynamic and exciting in a way that still holds up for the most part. I've never thought Ryan O'Neil was a great actor, so this type of role (limited emotion, very physical) was really perfect for him; these Driver characters are all about action over words. Bruce Dern steals the show with every scene as the shady detective who's dying to catch "the cowboy that's never been caught"; no one plays an arrogant asshole quite like Bruce Dern. And Isabella Adjani's exquisite beauty shines through even the atrocious low-quality version of this movie I watched on YouTube; she played a very subtle femme fatale.
Modern viewers will probably be let down by the spareness of this film, but in my opinion it still does its job. And does it well. Of all the movies in the criminals-driving-erratically genre that was so popular in the '60s and '70s, this might be one of the best.
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