Classic Intel: The Driver - Online Review

'bear in mind the clear references to classic literature, most notably Moby Dick, O'Neal's Driver playing white whale to Dern's dangerously fixated detective'

Visiting The Driver post Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive is an eye-opener. Whilst Refn freely admits to being influenced by Walter Hill's film, just how influenced he was by it is an unavoidable conversation when the many similarities become clear. It is not difficult to concoct a very plausible argument that Drive is a pretty straight remake of Hill's tense thriller.

The similarities are obvious in the first twelve-or-so, near-silent, minutes, where the same thing that happens in Drive happens again. Anti-hero The Driver (Ryan O'Neal, note that, like Ryan Gosling, he doesn't have a proper name) picks up some stock hoodlums from a robbery before parting with them on ill-mannered terms; 'there isn't gonna be a next time. You were late.' So far, so familiar, as Drive must have been to those who saw this first.

Where this differs from the more recent offering is in the antagonist. The criminal underworld are here and present and there's a conflict set up with Teeth (Rudy Ramos) which at least partially treads Drive-like routes but the main source of discomfort for Driver is The Detective, a sterling Mick McCarthy-at-his-eagle-like-best-looking, Bruce Dern. In the typical manner of the anti-hero, O'Neal finds himself in possession of some morals, whilst Dern has few, driven by an obsession to catch the un-catchable. If the film sounds like a standard Thriller - and for the most part it is, albeit a very good one - then bear in mind the clear references to classic literature, most notably Moby Dick, O'Neal playing white whale to Dern's dangerously fixated law maker.

O'Neal, who feels like he should have been more famous after this than he seems to have been, is equally assured, although his voice - a tad reedy - fails to backup the machismo his character displays elsewhere. Isabelle Adjani - ostensibly in the Carrie Mulligan role, sans child and dodgy husband - seems to have been given two sole directions to be 'alluring' and 'slightly European', both of which she manages stunningly. There's a hint at one point that Hill is going to follow The Hustler's line of the deep noir femme fatale but eventually he allows Adjani to pass through rather under-used.

This coupled with other elements obviously leaves The Driver lacking the modern sex sizzle of Refn's offering. There's no neon here or electro pop and the script is sometimes too bare for its own good. But where Drive succeeded, so does The Driver. The chases squeal with soul-cutting rubber, the leads are sexy and easy to sympathise with and the simple plot ignites when it becomes clear that no-one is getting away entirely clean. It is not surprising that Refn felt comfortable taking so much from what proves to be an rather outstanding, if simplistic, crime caper.

The Driver was available on Lovefilm Instant.

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