• Southern Comfort

Is Chicago on the brink of a Walter Hill retrospective? A month ago Doc Films screened a new 35-millimeter print of Hill’s The Driver, and in a little over three weeks Chicago Cinema Society will present an archival print of The Warriors, probably his best-known directorial effort. Bullet to the Head, Hill’s first theatrical project in more than a decade, opened in general release earlier this month and left theaters shortly thereafter. Even Hill’s fans seemed disappointed by the movie, but they agreed it was good to see him in the public eye again.

Alas it’s all too easy to see why Hill’s been marginalized for so long. He’s a genre director who specializes in action and suspense, but also a quirky, self-conscious artist who tends towards minimalist imagery and pessimistic themes. Like John Carpenter, who also advanced a personal aesthetic through hard-edged genre films in the 70s and 80s, he’s the sort of macho pop artist that Hollywood no longer knows what to do with. (This disconnect is evidenced in the generic, uncertain ad campaigns for such recent movies as Joe Carnahan’s The Grey and Neveldine/Taylor’s Gamer, which can be said to follow in the Carpenter-Hill tradition.)