THE DRIVER
1978, 20th Century Fox, 90 min, USA, Dir: Walter Hill

Criminally underrated and overlooked upon its initial release Walter Hill’s auto-noir, THE DRIVER, has justifiably built a cult following over the past decade from filmmakers, cinephiles and academics alike. Created in homage to Jean-Pierre Melville and Euro crime cinema, Hill pits existential getaway driver Ryan O’Neal against pit-bull detective Bruce Dern for a cat-and-mouse pursuit across the wasted underbelly of ’70s Los Angeles.

THE DRIVER is lean, mean and underpinned by a masterful cast that delivers sardonic wit and bitter brilliance on par with the very best film noir. Making her Hollywood debut, Isabelle Adjani has never been cooler in this twilight world where names are eschewed for actions. Where Hill most notably deviates from his peers and predecessors are the truly electric chase sequences. Breathless even by today’s standards, Hill repeatedly throws the viewer against his bumpers as he perilously races across LA’s unforgiving asphalt – an astonishing accomplishment considering the now-antiquated state of cars in 1978.

An influence on almost every heist film that followed, THE DRIVER represents a highlight of Hill’s stellar career and a stone cold, tough-as-nails masterpiece.