Original Post Date: February 24th, 2012
Author’s Note: With Part IV of this series, we crossed the finish line on my first themed-month. This also marked the first appearance of a feature I shamelessly titled “Clash of the Titans.” In other words, a guest post. Or, as Mr. Peanutbutter would say, “what is this, a crossover episode?!” Now that I have a bit more experience with this page, I will be offering this feature more in the future.
In this post, I covered “The Driver” and was fortunate enough to match wits with author Duane Swiercyznski.
The year is 2012. At least, I think it is. By now, I’m sure you all know the cardinal rule that comes with taking road-trips in this day and age: “Whatever you do, never pick up a hitchhiker! And, most importantly, blah blah blah, something something.” There might be more to it than this, but that’s usually about the time I zoned out. Anyway, whoever told you this rule is absolutely, 100% right. (Unless it was a hitchhiker; in which case, they’re lying.) Those carefree, innocent days where you could trust a lovable, roadside “friend you haven’t met yet” with your passenger seat, social security number (and…um…life) are long gone.
These days, there’s simply too much risk involved. For one, it’s illegal. Also, who is responsible for your stoic stowaway’s physical well-being in the event of an accident? Not to mention the fact that your new bearded buddy (male or female) could be a future star on “America’s Most Wanted”, and you’d have no way of knowing until they are already riding shotgun, changing all your pre-tuned radio stations and mumbling to themselves about wearing your face as a mask.
This week, I broke that cherished rule and invited someone aboard the TitanTown bus. Now, before you call me a hypocrite, let me explain my reasoning:
First, this is not what some would call a “real” situation. I’m not actually driving a bus anywhere. There is no bus. This is a blog. Besides, I wouldn’t even know how to drive a bus if I had one.
Secondly, this man isn’t a stranger at all (although he IS a bit strange…). It’s hardboiled author, Philadelphia native and all-around badass Duane Swierczynski. Duane is the author of several crime thrillers, including SECRET DEAD MEN, THE WHEELMAN, SEVERANCE PACKAGE, EXPIRATION DATE and more. His recent novels focus on hardened ex-cop Charlie Hardie. Hardie’s tale is told in three volumes; the first two, FUN & GAMES and HELL & GONE are available now. The third installment of the trilogy, POINT & SHOOT, is on the way. Several of his works have been optioned for film, which I am very much looking forward to seeing. In addition to his novels, Duane also writes for Marvel Comics, where he has worked with familiar characters such as Iron Fist, Deadpool and Cable. He is also writing the DC Comics relaunching of the Birds of Prey series.
Duane is a great writer, funny guy, loyal pal…and I have evidence of him front-row at a Justin Bieber concert. Due to all these reasons, he agreed to help gas up TitanTown a bit, and bring “February: The Month of the Getaway Driver” to a screeching halt dramatic finish. For this final installment, I took a crack at one of Duane’s favorite films. After suffering through my regular post, enjoy a very special Q&A with the man himself. If this feature is successful, I’ll try to bring on more guests in the future. So, I hope you enjoy:
– The Driver
“I’m already home. Blogger, remember?”
Hey, DT! Convince me! So…why The Driver?:
Seeing as this is the fourth and final edition of “The Month of the Getaway Driver”, you know the drill. You don’t need an introduction to the strange and exciting world of the driver-for-hire.
The Driver takes place in LA and features a driver (a pretty stoic Ryan O’Neal) called….The Driver. He handles the getaway car for robberies. In fact, he does this pretty damn well, because he’s never been caught. No one gets by on skill alone, however. The Driver enjoys success because, not only is he a force of nature behind the wheel, he is also extremely careful. As many successful drivers do, The Driver lives by a set of rules. He avoids guns whenever possible, avoids working with amateurs whenever possible, doesn’t use the same car twice and is very much a fan of punctuality. In other words, with the exception of the whole career criminal thing, he’s a perfect date.
Despite his ability to elude capture, however, The Driver has managed to appear on the radar of a determined and unconventional detective, played by Bruce Dern. This detective’s name is….The Detective. (Yep, director/writer Walter Hill was not sold on names, which seems odd yet still manages to give the film an air of mystery.) What follows is an epic game of cat and mouse, with The Detective pulling out all the stops in order to “catch the cowboy that’s never been caught.” Entering the game is the sultry and mysterious player (Isabelle Adjani), known only as….yeah, yeah: The Player. Whose side is she really on? Can she be trusted? Who knows?
Take all these ingredients, toss in some criminal riffraff, a daring heist with a huge score, high speed chases and plenty of double crosses….and, baby, you got a stew goin‘.
Now that you’re here, check out:
Bruce Dern’s “The Detective.” At times cold and calculating, at times brash and fiery, The Detective is always dangerous. He is obsessed with apprehending The Driver and will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants. Whether he’s goading The Driver into making a move or strong-arming The Player, you can always bet The Detective is up to something sneaky. I guess if you had hair like that you would be kind of a dick, too.
Will he succeed in his mission? I guess you have a movie to watch. But it’s great fun to watch The Detective pull out all the stops on his quest.
Who brings a DVD to a gunfight? You do (If it’s The Driver):
Be prepared for, you guessed it, lots of car chases! Whether it’s the police chasing The Driver or The Driver chasing someone else, Walter Hill mixes plenty of action into his film. Watch for the scene in which The Driver auditions for a job in a parking garage. You will not be disappointed. Additionally, there are some great shots of LA to be found here, which is a perfect city in which to set a getaway movie.
And there’s more here for those of us who aren’t car aficionados. O’Neal’s character has a knack for rubbing people the wrong way. What this usually implies is that, eventually, someone isn’t going to like him. Therefore, The Driver’s not afraid to use his fists. Despite his knack for fisticuffs, he’s at a bit of a disadvantage in LA. See, no one else cares that he doesn’t like guns. It certainly isn’t stopping anyone else in town from tossing lead around like it’s going out of style. There’s a lot of unsavory characters lurking around town with names like “Glasses” and “Teeth.” (I’m assuming that “Mustache” and “Lower-back Tattoo” were going to make appearances in the sequel which, sadly, doesn’t exist.) Anyway, keep your head down and enjoy!
This is the end…
It’s only fitting that we end our month-long tribute to the getaway driver with a classic getaway caper. This Driver won’t mince words with you, but he will get you where you need to be. Walter Hill’s “The Driver” may not be as widely known as it should, but it served as a major influence for a lot of things that we enjoy today. That includes TV shows, video games and especially other heist films. Without this film, many of these things might not have been created.
So, enjoy this trip. But please, remember some of the lessons we established way back in Part I. If you want the best driver around, you’re going to pay for it. If you don’t respect The Driver’s rules, you don’t respect The Driver. And if you don’t respect The Driver, you’re going to look awfully silly trying to drive your own getaway car. And please, for the love of God, do not try to double-cross The Driver. If you do, you will regret it. You may be beaten with a hammer, run over by a car, get shot, or get karate kicked. Or, maybe you get lucky and escape at the last minute. But someone, someday will make a movie about it. And then, some loser awesome guy will write a blog about it. And trust me, that hurts much worse.
Clash of the Titans #1:
The Driver: Behind the Wheel
with Duane Swierczynski
TitanTown (TT): I get a headache whenever someone asks me to name my favorite movie, mainly because there are so many great ones and I have difficulty picking just one. This week, you picked The Driver as one of your favorites. What is it about this film that appeals to you?
Duane Swierczynski (DS): It’s moody. It’s set in L.A. It was made in the 1970s. These are pretty much the qualifications for so many of my favorite crime films: (e.g. Hickey & Boggs, The Long Goodbye). The appearance of Bruce Dern is a bonus.
TT: One of your books, THE WHEELMAN, deals with a getaway driver named Lennon. In it, he has some awe-inspiring getaways and runs into a rogue’s gallery of characters. What made you decide to write about a getaway driver? Were you thinking about this movie as you wrote?
DS: I hadn’t seen (or even heard of) The Driver when I wrote WHEELMAN, and that’s a good thing, because I may not have bothered with the novel. Sometimes, utter ignorance is a novelist’s best friend. As for why I choose a getaway driver… you know, that’s a good question. I knew I wanted the main character (“Lennon”) to be the outsider in a group of outsiders, and it always seemed like the driver is always the dude outside the bank, not taking part in the main action, just doin’ his thing. Thing is, I’m the furthest thing from a car guy. I mean fuck, I drive a minivan.
TT: “The Driver” seems to be a pretty unique dude. He’s obviously breaking the law by driving getaway cars, but he dislikes guns and lives by his own rules. He doesn’t even seem to care who he pisses off. In your book, This Here’s a Stick-Up: the Big Bad Book of American Bank Robbery, you discuss many different types of robbers. Are there any real-life examples of robbers that remind you of “The Driver”?
DS: Oh yeah…the stone cold pros who pioneered getaway driving. Henry Starr, who used a high-powered Stutz Bearcat touring car to zoom away from a 1921 heist in Arkansas. Herman “The Baron” Lamm, who treated bank heists like military operations – and knew that getaway cars had to look ordinary, but be able to outrun anything the police were driving. (He liked his getaway drivers, in fact, to have racetrack experience.) Harvey Bailey had a technique called “running the cat roads”, where you mapped out carefully-detailed getaway routes using farm roads. Walter Hill’s “Driver” is cut from the same cloth.
TT: Bruce Dern delivers a captivating (and creepy) performance as “The Detective”, who is obsessed with putting “The Driver” in handcuffs. His desire to be the one to arrest “the cowboy that’s never been caught” borders on fanatical at times. Oddly enough, “The Detective” doesn’t seem to care which laws he has to bend or break in order to get what he wants. What do you make of the relationship between “The Detective” and “The Driver”?
DS: What I love about The Detective is that you never see him in an actual police setting. He could just be some psycho who decided to go after The Driver… for fun. They’re also classic foils. The Drive is largely emotionless; The Detective is so hammy, you could damn near serve him for Easter Dinner. You see the same kind of relationship between De Niro and Pacino in Heat; it’s a pairing that never fails. (I did the same thing with Lennon and Saugherty, the corrupt cop, in Wheelman.)
TT: Isabelle Adjani also stars as “The Player.” In a world of lowlifes, criminals and crooked detectives, she helps to class up the joint a bit. However, she brings much more to the movie than that. What do you think her role is, exactly? Who, or what, is she playing?
DS: Every crime flick needs a dame.
TT: When I saw the movie Drive (2011) being discussed, I assumed it was a remake of The Driver (1978), only to find out the two films, while similar, aren’t related. A lot of other reviewers have noticed a few similarities between the films. Have you seen Drive? If so, what did you think? Does it have a place in the category of “Great Getaway Movies”?
DS: I wanted to hate Drive. I really did. Drive has been my nemesis since October 2005, when Wheelman appeared the same month as James Sallis’s Drive, the short novel that was the basis for the movie. Which is kind of like releasing a novel about a killer dog the same month Cujo comes out, you know? But I finally watched Drive last month… and I have to say… I absolutely loved it. It’s moody, it’s set in L.A… hell, the soundtrack alone lights up parts of my brain that haven’t been lit up for 25 years. Goddamned James Sallis and his genius… (grumbles)
TT: Say you’re planning a heist…hypothetically, of course. Are you the brains? The muscle? The wheelman?
DS: I’m the dude who gets stabbed in the neck with a pencil in the first 20 pages of the novel/10 minutes of the movie.
TT: You have to make a quick getaway, which vehicle do you boost…and why?
DS: My minivan. I’d hope that it would be a clever decoy vehicle—I mean, who the hell would rob a bank using a minivan? But in the end, I’d be wrong, and they’d arrest me, and I’d go to jail, and somebody would shank me Day Two as I was scooping up a second helping of instant mashed potatoes. This is why I write instead of pursuing a life of crime.
TT: Finally, if you had to convince someone to see The Driver in one sentence…what would you say?
DS: “If you don’t see it, ‘DirectingTitan’ will show up at your home and beat you to death with a hammer.”
You heard it right here, folks. You just can’t argue with that kind of logic. I’d like to thank Duane for stopping by and taking the time to share his love of movies and, um, criminals with TitanTown. Be sure to drop by Secret Dead Blog, where Duane does his online thing. You’ll find interesting tidbits, great stories and more information about his writings and other work. You can also find him on Twitter under the handle @swierczy. Be sure to tell him I sent you (My kickbacks come in the form of whiskey.)