Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

The Essentials: The 5 Best Walter Hill Films

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 1, 2013 at 11:58AM

It's not that often that we call a new Sylvester Stallone-starring movie an event, let alone when it's one as seemingly cheap and long-delayed as "Bullet to the Head," which opens on Friday. But given that the film is the first theatrical feature in thirteen years from action legend Walter Hill, it's certainly got our interest more than most similar films.
14
Walter Hill

It's not that often that we call a new Sylvester Stallone-starring movie an event, let alone when it's one as seemingly cheap and long-delayed as "Bullet to the Head," which opens on Friday. But given that the film is the first theatrical feature in thirteen years from action legend Walter Hill, it's certainly got our interest more than most similar films.

Hill started out as an assistant director, working on the likes of "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Bullitt," before graduating to screenwriter of Sam Peckinpah's "The Getaway," and the Paul Newman vehicle "The Mackintosh Man" for John Huston. In 1975, he made his directorial debut on the Charles Bronson bare-knuckle boxing movie "Hard Times," and went on to be a much in-demand name in the action genre over the next couple of decades.

Today, he's perhaps best remembered for his part in the "Alien" movies (he co-wrote and co-produced the first three, and remains a co-producer with a credit on "Prometheus"), and the general response to "Bullet to the Head" doesn't suggest that that's about to change (though our Jess had a good time with the unreconstructed actioner). But still, it seemed like a good opportunity to cast our eye back toward his work, so we've picked out five of our favorite Walter Hill-directed pictures below. Disagree? Weigh in with your own opinions in the comments section.

The Driver
"The Driver" (1978)
Hill once commented that every movie he ever made was a Western, even when it's not evident on the surface. He was quoted as saying that he sets his films in "a stripped down moral universe that is, whatever the dramatic problems are, beyond the normal avenues of social control…of the problem, and I like to do that even within contemporary stories." And that's very much true with "The Driver," his second film. A low-key existential action classic that really saw the filmmaker come into his own, it sees a nameless Driver (Ryan O'Neal), who makes his living in the getaway business, going head to head with The Detective (Bruce Dern), who's determined to bring him down, even if he has to entrap him with a bank robbery to do so, while Isabelle Adjani is The Player who comes between them. Its influence on Nicholas Winding Refn's 2011 film "Drive" has been well noted, but its DNA can be found earlier. For instance, it's hard to imagine Michael Mann's career being the same without Hill's examination of two icy professionals on either side of the law, while Quentin Tarantino has nodded to "The Driver" more than once in his work. It's undoubtedly stylized fare, right down to the hard-boiled dialogue, and Hill impresses with intense, never overblown car chases that are still among the finest ever made (arguably topping those in Sam Peckinpah's "The Getaway"). The spareness of the script -- influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville and "Le Samourai" in particular -- can be a touch alienating, especially for modern audiences used to more coddling from their thrillers, but we'd say that it remains Hill's best film.

The Warriors
"The Warriors" (1979)
If "Hard Times" and "The Driver" displayed Hill's debt to people like Peckinpah and the French New Wave, his third film (and first real cult hit) "The Warriors" showed that he could blend these things with a populist, almost comic-book sensibility, and it confirmed him as one of the most talented action directors around. Set in an ostensibly present-day New York that's closer to a post-apocalyptic wasteland than the Big Apple, the film follows the titular gang -- including Michael Beck's Swan, James Remar's Ajax, Terry Michos' Vermin, Marcelino Sanchez's Rembrandt and David Harris' Cochise -- who are called to a meeting of all the New York gangs in Van Cortland's Park, proposing a truce, only for their leader Cyrus (Roger Hill) to be framed for the murder of the leader of the Gramercy Riffs. The rest of the Warriors escape and try to head back to safer territory, but the leader of the Rogues, Luther (David Patrick Kelly), puts a hit on them, making them a target of every gang in the city. It's, as you might expect from Hill, relatively spare and lean (the plot is, essentially, "go from point A to point B"), but he creates a rich world to play in, one that one suspects bears little relation to the real world at the time, but also feels shot through with the disco/punk/early hip-hop spirit of 1970s NYC. And Hill has a tremendous feel for the iconic, summoning up not just comic books, but also the Greek legend Anabasis, something hammered home in the recent director's cut, which adds graphic-art bridging sequences and a new intro to really emphasize the film's place as pop art. If some of the cast are a little patchy acting-wise, it's made up for by the keen eye for physicality in picking them out, and by the rock'n'roll energy Hill brings to his direction. A middling success on release, it has matured over time into one of the most reliably entertaining midnight movies around.

This article is related to: Features, Walter Hill, Bullet To The Head


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates