(Cont’d from Part 1) The attempt to create meaning through some form of old-fashioned male aggression also lies at the heart of all of Nino and Bernie’s affairs. What is their world of organized crime but a system of power, authority, and aggression? The deadpan nature of the violence often emphasizes not only its sheer horror, but also its pure absurdity. For all of the mob’s notions of power, and all of the Driver’s notions of being a classical male hero, this is the logical outcome: bodies—nothing more. The film’s brute sense of mortality swells as it progresses, continually striking us with its random, spastic furor (Cook’s murder, Shannon’s murder and the scene of the Driver finding him). When it’s all said and done, all their woes and angers; just a bunch of death—hollow and heavy.
To reflect what others have said, I think that this idea that the film is challenging the idea of the male hero and the action star is indeed the purpose of the stuntman component. I wonder, where did it all start? He was the stuntman and that wasn’t real enough, so he had to transpose it to dangerous, screaming reality on the streets running from the police. But the complex continues. And of course, once the Driver has finally snapped and leapt completely headfirst and hellbent into his mission of male revenge late in the film, he dons the mask, entering a new form—or perhaps, only externalizing, manifesting the previous new form of male archetype; the savage Hollywood action protagonist.
I feel the stabbing scene between the Driver and Bernie at the end enters a very strange state—one not only seeming to be tender, but also almost touching. They are two of a kind, spending the whole film violently expressing their masculine senses of power and violence. Now, at the end of their poor roads, through all their self-ruin; each other. Scorpion to scorpion—because it is their nature. Their violent journeys through the dark end of the male psyche have lead them to death, yes, but it has also lead them to a curious closeness. Their shadows on the ground—the negative imprint of the men and their plight for self-actualization. Their identities displaced, disembodied, entangled, two men at their wit’s end, fully out of ways to express themselves and define themselves as men, the brilliant failure of their pursuits, sinking to the ground together in death (or near-death, in the driver’s case). Their shadows merge after a point, as well, becoming almost indistinguishable. (x)