Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Walter Hill's juvenilia

Caught on DVD Walter Hill's The Driver (1978), an interesting action picture that's all mood, minimal dialogue, paradigmatic characters and screeching tires. Isabelle Adjani plays a mysterious moll (she's made to look exactly like a 1940s femme fatale) while in the title role Ryan O'Neal is meant to look impassive throughout, which fits this most expressionless of actors just fine. Ronee Blakley (of Nashville fame) has a notable cameo as "the Connection"—typically, all the characters are nameless and referred to only by their occupation (Adjani is "the Player," Bruce Dern "the Detective").

Hill was on a roll at the beginning of his career: He followed The Driver with The Warriors, The Long Riders and Southern Comfort, all of them superior examples of 1970s action filmmaking but also alluring examples of a gifted director entertainingly playing with specific movie archetypes. But then he seemed to lose interest in style and delivered straight-faced formula: With 48 Hours and Red Heat (I won't bother to link to these two), Hill bears a lot of responsibility for the horrible buddy-movie craze that took off in the 1980s.

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