I appreciated Walter Hill’s The Driver as a well-made piece of noir filmmaking, very much the ur-text for films like Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Drive and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. There’s definitely something to be said for a film with humble ambitions that successfully hits all the notes it’s trying to hit – certainly, this is a well-made film.
And yet, I found myself struggling to connect to this film on any sort of emotional level – there’s a sterility to Ryan O’Neal’s driver character, an intentional distance, that simultaneously plays into what makes the character tick, but also separates the audience from any sort of emotional connection. Meanwhile, Bruce Dern’s detective character, hunting the driver down, is such an asshole, that I struggled to connect there. Ultimately I found this film to be well-made but impenetrable, a gap that successors like Drive and Baby Driver have managed to bridge.
Ultimately, as a piece of film literature, this is worth admiration and study, but as a film to be enjoyed en masse, a real struggle.