The hyper-kinetic action sequences in Walter Hill’s The Driver do a great deal to alleviate the disappointing lack of character development inherent in the director’s script. The fine actors might as well be puppets for all the depth they get to display during the movie, but if action’s your thing, The Driver certainly delivers.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/23/2013
A professional getaway driver (Ryan O’Neal) has his craft down to a science. He’s so good, in fact, that he’ll often leave small clues behind taunting the police who can’t quite manage to finger him. A frustrated police detective (Bruce Dern) has made it his mission to bring down the driver at any cost, even to the point of railroading some crooks (Joseph Walsh, Rudy Ramos) who got caught in a failed robbery attempt to hire the driver for a new robbery that he’ll mastermind so that he can catch the driver in the act. But the driver has some tricks of his own up his sleeve.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
By giving none of his characters names, writer-director Walter Hill further strips his characters of any human identities. We’re dealing with character types here (the strong, suave, silent crook, the manipulative, egotistical police detective, the poker-faced femme fatale played by Isabelle Adjani), but the game of cat and mouse doesn’t really get milked for all it’s worth because we don’t get invested enough in the characters to care that much what happens to them, and Hill’s script seems to play a little fast and loose with the final caper. O'Neal's driver seems to be drawn into the trap awfully easily even though the ending is sufficiently pleasurable. But, Hill has staged three absolutely jaw-dropping car sequences: two high speed chases with the driver against either the police or a young professional rival (Frank Bruno) and the film’s centerpiece where the driver displays his skills as a kind of absolute reality resume for a potential client to see his skills in action. These breathless examples of stupendous stunt driving seem almost unmatched in modern cinema and give the movie its greatest claim to fame.
While he’s perfectly adequate as the title character, Ryan O’Neal seems almost too pretty to be among the sleazy cops and crumbs he works with in the film. Bruce Dern plays the same kind of cocksure mouthy detective that made him quite off-putting in The Laughing Policeman, and if the movie generates a rooting interest for O’Neal’s character, it’s mainly because the viewer wants to see the egomaniacal Dern character fall on his face. Isabelle Adjani struggles with her English and comes across as quite brittle in the film; Ronee Blakley as O’Neal’s “agent” who sets up the jobs for him is also a little stilted and doesn’t have the excuse of speaking a language that isn’t her own. Matt Clark and Felice Orlandi are better than they have to be as Dern’s detective partners while Joseph Walsh has some effective moments as a hood who’s in over his head.
The film is presented in a 1.85:1 transfer faithful to its original theatrical exhibition and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is really outstanding throughout, and color reproduction is spot-on with accurate and appealing flesh tones. Black levels are very deep and impressive though there may be just a bit of black crush that limits shadow detail occasionally. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is very typical of mono soundtracks from this era. The screeching tires and gunning engines come through with a fierce fidelity in the mix, and Michael Small spare score is most effective. Dialogue is usually nicely recorded though a few of Isabelle Adjani’s lines seem a bit muffled, possibly due to her mumbling or a hesitancy to speak English. The three tracks of dialogue, effects, and music are mixed together adroitly in this very effective audio track.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Alternate Opening (3:20, HD): separate scenes with Isabelle Adjani and Bruce Dern set up some information on both of their roles in the film though later events made these scenes unnecessary.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Isolated Score Track: the isolated score by Michael Small is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
Theatrical Trailer (2:26, SD): shows the original R-rating, later graded a PG.
6-Page Booklet: contains a nice array of color stills, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s incisive analysis of the movie.
The Driver is a cut-to-the-bone cat and mouse thriller offering touches of noir atmosphere and an effective mood of sleazy decadence. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if copies are still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies .
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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