I see the point, obviously, that Mr. Zoller Seitz is making. And yet, for this blog, it is nevertheless not quite right. Steve McQueen is, well, Steve McQueen and all that. I wish I was Steve McQueen zipping around in that “Thomas Crown” Ferrari but that’s still too fantastical for me. When I climb behind the wheel of a car I do not imagine myself as Steve McQueen because I cannot imagine myself as Steve McQueen because even my admittedly far-out imagination has its limits. No, when I get behind the wheel of a car, I picture myself as Skipp Sudduth in “Ronin.”Dudes all think they're Steve McQueen behind the wheel of a car, and nearly all of them are actually Jerry Lewis.— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) April 13, 2017
That might seem absurd too. If I’m going to picture myself as a driver in “Ronin” should it not be Robert DeNiro, considering he is at the wheel of the most daring and expansive of the film’s myriad car chases, going against traffic, briefly, and managing some sort of derring-do with the aid of the handbrake that is beyond my elementary mechanical expertise to properly explain. But as much as I love DeNiro in “Ronin”, Sudduth’s wonderfully ordinarily named Larry is my preferred automobile pilot. Like, you know how Ryan Gosling in “Drive” said “I drive”? That’s Larry except that Larry doesn’t even need to say “I drive.” He just...drives. He’s there because he drives. Everyone knows this. Plus, in a crew that includes DeNiro, Jean Reno and Natascha McElhone, Skipp Sudduth does not look like nor sound like be belongs. That is totally un-McQueen-ish; that is me.
But then, Skipp Sudduth in “Ronin” is my McQueen for a reason – I could never drive like that. “Something that can shovel a bit,” Sudduth’s character says of the car he needs. That is not what I say to the car salesman when I’m trying to buy a car. So, who am I really behind the wheel of a car? Me, a person who, in the unlikely event of a car chase, would wind up like Ricky Bobby post-comeback, piddling down the track at 26 mph...
Post comeback Ricky, in fact, is an intriguing choice. But even post-comeback Ricky Bobby is still Ricky Bobby, simply buying time until he becomes the requisite phoenix rising from the racetrack ashes. And so I feel uncomfortable going that route, just as I feel uncomfortable pegging myself as, say, Stephanie from “The Naked Gun”, the hapless driving school student who turns the Women Are Terrible Drivers cliche on its head when she unleashes her inner-Popeye Doyle. I could never unleash my inner-Popeye Doyle because I don’t have an inner-Popeye Doyle.
And that’s why maybe as a driver I’m most like Del Griffith in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” for whom driving is less the point than rocking out to “Mess Around” by Ray Charles while driving. I am, after all, not much of a driver, kind of like Del, who ends up going the wrong way in the worst situation possible, but I am really, really good at playing car dashboard piano.
The thing is, however, I don’t even own a car. I haven’t owned a car going on six years now. And I love it, I absolutely adore not owning a car. Becoming car-less was one of the best decisions I ever made even if it also means that the few times I do drive, usually in an unfamiliar rental car, I discover I am a more fearful and worse driver than ever. Who in their right mind would want to be in a car with me? No one! Ask my girlfriend! Ask me, for God’s sake! I don’t want to be in a car with me!
So maybe, in the end, I’m not a driver at all. Maybe I’ve become the guy at the end of “The Pink Panther” in the zebra costume, the one running after the car chase, post-costume party, that is in progress, just trying to catch up.