Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2001
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Genre: Action / Drama / Sport
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
A high-speed action flick centering on the mid-season career of a CART driver, “Driven” is an entertaining, colorful film that features some notable actors and non-stop action. Jimmy Bly may be on the verge of losing his mid-season winning streak, so the team manager brings veteran CART champion Joe Tanto onto the team to coach the younger driver. Although this film certainly includes its fair share of clichés, the high-octane adventure is sure to keep audiences’ hearts pounding from beginning to end.
After five spectacular wins, rookie driver Jimmy Blye (Kip Pardue) appears to be on a role. Former champion Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger) is upset about Blye’s wins, so he breaks up with his fiancée Sophia (Estella Warren) in hopes of getting back on track and winning more races. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s brother and manager Demille (Robert Sean Leonard) is putting immense pressure on Jimmy to win. Seeing Jimmy’s fragile state, the team manager decides to bring in veteran racer Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) into the racing team to act as a mentor for Jimmy and help him continue his winning streak.
In a close race, Joe effectively helps Jimmy win by remaining in the pit and cutting off Bradenburg at the last second. After the race, Jimmy begins to have feelings for Sophia, so Joe attempts to get Bradenburg and her back together to avoid complications with Jimmy. When Jimmy finds out that the two are back together, he becomes angry and takes off with a new car. Joe chases him down the streets of downtown Chicago in his own car until finally apprehending him, and the two forgive each other and begin to chat. Later, the team manager takes Joe out of the team and puts the previous team member back. Trouble ensues when, during the next race, a serious crash taking place at upwards of 200 MPH forces Jimmy to make a difficult choice. Things get even more sticky as the championship race arrives, but will Jimmy find the strength to outrace Bradenburg in the final lap? The last race is a sequence of non-stop adrenaline that decides all for Jimmy and his team.
Renny Harlin brings audiences a racing film that emphasizes action over anything else. The racing scenes are both entertaining and realistic, and they don’t feature the large amount of CG spoilage common in modern action films. Strategic camera angles during these sequences bring audiences into the action of the race. The soundtrack is equally enticing, featuring a number of catchy rock songs that blend with the atmosphere of the film.
The cinematography brings a truly original element to the film, featuring fast cuts between camera angles and Thanks to these clever camera tricks, the film is even more engaging, giving viewers an extra shot of adrenaline during every scene. However, this fast-paced cinematography may be disorienting to some viewers as it is often difficult to catch exactly what is going on before the scene cuts.
Despite its exciting racing scenes, however, “”Driven”” fails to deliver on a number of levels. First, there is very little character depth and development revealed throughout the film. Although Jimmy and Joe eventually bond, their relationship never seems quite genuine. The female characters are also fairly two-dimensional, serving more as distractions and prizes for the male drivers than as individual characters.
As in numerous racing movies, the dialog is often shallow and awkward. Viewers may find themselves craving for more action sequences when Jimmy and Joe are having a forced heart-to-heart talk with laughable dialog. Although the plot takes the back seat in this action-centered film, audiences cannot help but notice several plot holes and find themselves confused about what exactly is happening in the film. For instance, one cannot help but wonder why Jimmy is not pursued by the police after blatantly stealing a new car and taking off with it. The racing sequences are overall well-done, but some of the crashes feel unrealistic. These faults deter many viewers from this unique action flick, but many who give the film a chance find that it is fairly entertaining despite its downfalls.
“Driven” may not be the racing film of the decade, but it is an entertaining watch that features some great racing scenes. Sylvester Stallone, in particular, delivers a standout performance as retired driver Joe Tanto, making this film a worthy addition to any Stallone movie collection. The film may have its downfalls, but in the end, “Driven” accomplishes its goal of creating an exciting movie-watching experience for racing fans. Viewers are advised to watch this film without high cinematic expectations and enjoy this fun racing film for what it is.
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