From the Everyman-style naming of the characters to the ridiculous soundtrack, The Driver’s attempt at drama lands closer to farce, a wet dream for the TNT network weekend movie scheduling team. Softer cat and mouse parts of the final chase that would be naturally tense without a soundtrack are paired with apparently random jazzy trumpet honks and squeals. There’s never any music during conversation scenes, and this is countered by a strange, “sneaking henchman” score during the robbery sequences.
Ryan O’Neal’s character is smooth and convincing, a subtle performance. Everyone else seems heavy-handed, like they thought they were in a theatrical production instead of a film. The detective calls the driver “the cowboy” the whole movie, since calling him “the driver” clearly wasn’t silly enough. Every conversation with the detective made me think of the boss from the British version of The Office. He was downright uncomfortable to watch, but unfortunately, The Driver offers neither comedy nor social commentary. Along with the cowboy theme, the detective is big on one-liners, like he thinks he’s John Wayne, wishing he were as cool as the driver but knowing he’s not and making up for it with witty banter: “I’m gonna catch the cowboy that’s never been caught. Cowboy desperado!”
Maybe it would have been better as a silent film. That way the distracting soundtrack wouldn’t matter; additionally, “the detective” wouldn’t have been able to speak, so maybe it would have been reasonably enjoyable. As is, I found The Driver boring and annoying, perhaps because action movies have changed a great deal throughout my lifetime, but perhaps because it’s just not a good film. It shouldn’t matter when a movie was made. There are classics that were made before my parents were born that I still find relevant; why should I second-guess myself because an action movie hasn’t stood the test of time?