The Driver (1978)

Upon finishing this movie, it’s not hard to see why The Driver has had such a big and lasting impact on popular culture. The octane fueled, adrenaline high chase scenes with fast cuts combined with a mysterious and cool protagonist entangled in a slow burning cat and mouse game against the hellbent police trying to catch him makes for a very exciting and frankly, intoxicating viewing experience. It’s a very stylish movie, with a solid but simple story and good cast. It’s hard to find any real flaws. The focus is simply on the hard boiled “catch me if you can” game between the Driver and the Detective, it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that. It keeps things simple and then revs up the engine for some high speed thrills.

As a crime thriller The Driver prove to be a bit of a conundrum. It doesn’t build an oppressing or hectic atmosphere that makes you sit at the edge of your seat, sweating out what happen next like a traditional thriller, but that does not mean the movie is particularly slow or boring. Quite the contrary. After a very cinematic opening featuring a daring casino heist and the resulting get away car chase, the movie just moves forward with this  casual but confident and steady pace that somehow keeps you engaged and interested, and it doesn’t let go of you until the ride is over. The only explanation to why it works so well is simply that the movie has this odd charismatic ambiance to it where it’s always real smooth and suave, and even though the plot doesn’t seem to move much, it remains surprisingly captivating. It’s like slipping into a really comfortable suit that’s tailor made for you, everything is just right. The movie just oozes this exceptional feeling of coolness from every pore.

The scene that really makes the biggest impression on you is the car park scene, when the Driver is being recruited to do a job that is actually a trap set up by the Detective. It features an elaborate driving sequence showing the complete control the Driver has while at the same time it has a very humorous element to it, where you get to witness the Driver slowly and meticulously wreck the heist crew’s car to pieces, as a not-too-subtle way to blow off the people trying to hire him. It’s such a magnificent and memorable part of the movie that it was no wonder that it eventually was recreated on a smaller scale to the first Driver video game, where in similar fashion you must prove your driving skills the car park before you’re allowed to play the actual missions in particular was amazing to watch.

Even the actual ending of the movie is great, even though its very anticlimactic. Just as you were expecting the Driver to be screwed, he’s finally pushed his luck too far and is now caught and there was no foreseeable way to escape, the movie pulls the rug under your feet and kicks you in the head by revealing that the Driver and the Detective were both being scammed, there was no money in the bag that was to be the pay day and incriminating evidence to the Driver, so the Driver just gets to walk away. There’s nothing to directly tie him to a crime. It’s the perfect stalemate ending to the nerve racking cat and mouse game the movie has played with the two characters.

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