The Driver (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time / 1978 / 91 mins / R
THE DRIVER has a lot in common with writer/director Walter Hill's previous film, his 1975 debut feature HARD TIMES, than one might think. Both films feature characters that are more enigmatical that anything else, they are both deliberately paced (though THE DRIVER is punctuated with some truly thrilling chases) and they both have plots that seem to go nowhere in particular. The main characters in both films say very little and have a goal that is at once specific (they both are doing one last thing to get them out of their current profession) but tell us nothing about their plans or dreams beyond this immediate goal. To up the cryptic quotient for THE DRIVER, Hill didn't even give any of the characters names; they are only identified by their rolls in the story.
Ryan O'Neal is "The Driver," the best getaway driver in the shady world of robberies. His reputation for never having been caught allows him to pick and choose his clients as well as demand top dollar for his services. Bruce Dern is "The Detective." His reputation for never having lost a case has led him to go above and outside the law in order to catch his target. Now he has his sights set on "The Driver" and has hired a group of sleazy thugs to obtain his services for a bank robbery that will finish with "The Driver" ending up behind bars for good.
There is a lot to like in THE DRIVER. The cat and mouse game between "The Driver," "The Detective" and "The Player" (Isabelle Adjani) is enjoyable. It plays out in a very metered rhythm that is not too fast and not too slow; very comforting if such a word can be used for an action film. The car chases may not be as over-the-top out there as in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, but they are all the better for it here. The chases are exhilarating and they will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat. However the thrills and spills are not accentuated by lightning fast MTV-style editing. They feel grounded in a very real sense, much as one would imagine being in a high-speed chase through a city would feel like. For me this sense of realism (even if it is taking place in a world filled with characters with no names) pushes THE DRIVER above and beyond Vin Diesel's automotive insanity and into the realm of classic filmmaking.
The anamorphic 1.85 transfer is another great looking one from Twilight Time. The film takes place almost entirely at night and the shadow detail is excellent. Blacks are dark and inky and color is very well saturated. The source print is almost completely flawless.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono soundtrack is likewise clean and crisp. Overall, this is another beautiful looking and sounding disc from Twilight Time.
The supplements kick off with an "Alternate Opening" which gives away the mystery of "The Player" right up front (granted we find out about her shortly after meeting her but still) and goes into the first meeting of "The Detective" and "Red Plainclothesman" which was ultimately unnecessary.
The weird original theatrical trailer is included as well as the Twilight Time signature supplement: Michael Small's score isolated on a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track.
Enigmatical characters, shady dealings and some brilliantly executed car chases makes THE DRIVER easily recommended!
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