Replace Mello Yellow with Motorola and You Have “Driven”
By Kris Kehres
900 million laps, 250 miles per hour, 20 races, one champ, and two movies; the new action flick “Driven,” starring Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, and Kip Pardue, can easily be compared to the Tom Cruise, Nascar film “Days of Thunder.”
With the pressure of a successful rookie season, Indy newcomer Jimmy Bly, played by Kip Pardue (“Remember the Titans”), is suffering with second place finishes and pressure from his team owner, Burt Reynolds (“Boogie Nights” and “Striptease”), and his personal manager and brother, Roger Sean Leonard (“Swing Kids” and “Dead Poets Society”), to perform better.
Not only does Jimmy seem to be slipping on the race track, but his arch rival Beau Brandenburg, the current Indy champ, is not so happy with him either because he had been seen all too often with Beau’s wife Sophia, played by Estella Warren (the upcoming release of “Planet of the Apes”). The inevitable rivalry between the two drivers ensues and comes to a head when Jimmy finds out his new love has gone back her to husband. In the heat of the moment, Jimmy steals a new model Indy car from the fancy racing event he is attending that evening and races through the streets at speeds of 150 mph plus. Sound familiar?
Stallone, also writer and co-producer of the film, is brought into the Motorola racing family by Reynolds. Joe Tanto (Stallone), called back from retirement, shows up at the track with hopes of bringing the rookie to first place finishes. Tanto is an ex-race car driver with a mentoring, sensitive side to him. Quite a stretch for Stallone.
“Driven,” directed by Renny Harlin, falls very short of the afore mentioned similar racing film. With too many sub characters and plots, the two-hour plus film lacks in character development and originality. The main character Jimmy Bly is not even fully developed in the film. We seem to touch the surface of about ten characters, but not one of them stands out. Not even Stallone’s own character is given the proper attention and development necessary.
Burt Reynolds is introduced as the team manager, very similar to Randy Quaid in “Days of Thunder,” but he is not as likeable as Quaid. He is a hard and cruel man with a handicap. His character is shown in a wheel chair, but there is never a mention as to how he got there. Another victim of poor character development.
Stallone’s love interest in the film, a journalist doing an expose on male, macho stereotypes in the sport of racing, attempts to bring a deeper meaning into the already full plot mix, but her lack of development and screen time leaves her presence and message forgotten. The film attempts to stray from the “Days of Thunder” story line by revealing the softer side of these racing men.
One of the racing sequences in “Driven” results in a devastating accident in which a car is thrown from the track and lands in a nearby body of water isolated from anyone but the actual drivers on the track. Jimmy, realizing the paramedics and rescue teams can not get to the driver, stops his car, leaves the race, and rescues his fellow teammate. Beau Brandenberg continues the race, wins, and then comes to help. It is easy to see that Stallone was attempting to put an original spin on the car racing film, not all men are macho, ego maniacs, but once again it falls short with too many other overtones playing in the film.
The movie poster for “Driven” proclaims Welcome to the Human Race. Well folks, there are humans in it and there are a hand full of races, but you will not find that deeper human emotion the poster alludes to, or, for that matter, a two hour movie worth spending $7.00 dollars to see. The film has some decent special effects in the racing scenes, no doubt a result of Renny Harlin’s time spent on films such as “Deep Blue Sea” and “Cliffhanger,” but this is definitely not the “Big Show” we were promised.