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DRIVEN

SYNOPSIS:
In the high-octane world of open-wheel cart racing, Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) is a hot young rookie burning out under the pressure of his manager brother (Robert Sean Leonard). Jimmy’s battle for the world championship with icy German Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger) come to a head when he starts pursuing Beau’s bombshell girlfriend Sophia (Estella Warren). To help straighten the rookie out, team owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) brings former champ Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) out of retirement and back into the driver’s seat. Trying to teach Jimmy to win the race in his head before the one on the track, Joe must also face his own demons, including an ex-wife (Gina Gershon) who married a team-mate (Christian de la Fuente).

If the plot synopsis above reads like a familiar story full of archetypical characters, you’re right. Driven is a turbo charged actioner that tries to pour every plot device and character into one slick flick. Most obviously, it’s a re-hash of Days of Thunder, itself a four-wheeled re-hash of Top Gun. So where’s Tom Cruise? He’s Kip Pardue’s young gun Jimmy Bly, who like Maverick and Cole Trickle is a handsome pouter with a need for speed and an ego to match. He too puts it all on the line for the love of a girl, but Kelly McGillis and Nicole Kidman have become Estella Warren, and must deal with an ice-cold rival, though Val Kilmer and Michael Rooker transform into the thickly accented Til Schweiger. Each of our heroes had a retired veteran to steer them the right direction, yet Tom Skerritt and Robert Duval have become Driven’s writer-producer Sylvester Stallone, who knows a thing or two about being all washed up – his Rocky script won the Oscar in 1976. So Driven is a copy of a copy, and (as you would expect) the action is full throttle, with some terrific high-speed crashes that have cars flying through the air or tumbling end on end before smashing to smithereens. But it’s the cinematic equivalent of a Sports Illustrated spread or a kid’s candy store, choc-full of bright colours, distracting slogans, and sickeningly sweet temptations. Kip Pardue would shine as the talented rookie if only the dialogue would let him. Sylvester Stallone looks like something the cat dragged in and spat out, and Burt Reynolds looks like he’s had one too many face-lifts. Other talent goes to waste in this burnout; like Gina Gershon as the wicked temptress and Robert Sean Leonard (the tragic figure from Dead Poet’s Society) as the smart-assed manager-brother. Despite huge plot holes and a howlingly bad script, Driven ends with everything is it should be, and that’s fine if you’re in the mood. By the sounds of the embarrassed giggles in the audience, they were, too.
Shannon J. Harvey

My favourite line in this Grand Hotel on wheels is a TV voice-over that goes 'Welcome to Germany - home of beer, the Autobahn and Beau Brandenburg'. Priceless. I also liked how the script manages to accommodate the synchronised swimming talents of former Olympian Estella Warren. In a poolside seduction scene she showcases a few moves to Kip Pardue before explaining she was 'raised by frogs'. How about those song lyrics when Stallone's burnt-out, ex-champ character is introduced 'Sometimes I feel like I'm trapped inside myself' it drools. Great stuff. If you love the smell of petrol in the morning you'll love this tribute to the men who are brave/stupid enough to sit in a little tin can for 2 hours at speeds of 250mph (sorry, no metric measures here). Written by Sylvester Stallone and directed by his Cliffhanger buddy Renny Harlin, Driven might be a no-brainer but it's certainly never dull. An incident-packed narrative and hyper-kinetic action scenes hardly give you time to worry about how silly half of it is. Just sit back and let Harlin put you in the driver's seat as the old tale of the emotionally scarred ex-champ (Stallone), the hot-blooded rookie (Kip Pardue), his high pressure manager (Robert Sean Leonard) and the ruthless current titleholder (Til Schweiger) rolls out of the pits. For good value there's also Burt Reynolds in a wheelchair - 'the slowest man in the fastest sport' he calls himself - and the priceless Gina Gershon as Stallone's bitchy ex wife who seems to have caught the bus here direct from Showgirls. This backstage melodrama with burn-outs is no-one's finest 116 minutes by any stretch of the imagination but for cheap thrills, it delivers.
Richard Kuipers

Driven is one of those projects that must have looked great on paper – the excitement of high speed racing, a bitter rivalry, a love triangle – it has it all. But what actually appears on screen fails to live up to the promise. Under the heavy hand of director Renny Harlin and with a script written by Sylvester Stallone, this is a cliché-ridden excuse for a movie. Driven relies so heavily on racing scenes set to pounding music, that it becomes little more than an overblown music video. These scenes are punctuated by stilted dialogue and a plot as stale as last week’s newspaper. Harlin, hardly known for his restraint, seems to feel that the narrative arc provided by Sly’s script is best expressed through a series of ever-more spectacular crashes. In the end, these become so over-the-top that their falsity is painfully obvious through the computer generated imagery. Strangely for this type of movie, the best part about it is the love story. Here at least, Sly shows some chops as a screenwriter, opting for a resolution that’s at least not completely conventional. The same however can’t be said for the outcome of the main story, which echoes just about every other sports movie ever made. Stallone is his usual monosyllabic self as Joe; Burt Reynolds is wooden as the wheelchair-bound manager; while Til Schweiger sounds like he’s escaped from the set of Hogan’s Heroes as Beau. Kip Pardue is mostly effective as Jimmy; as is Estella Warren as Sophia; although the material they have to work with is hardly inspiring. In the end, Driven seems to be little more than an excuse for Harlin and Stallone to indulge their love of racing. As a film, it fails to fire on any of its cylinders.
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2

DRIVEN (PG)
(US)

CAST: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Kip Pardue, Estella Warren, Stacy Edwards

PRODUCERS: Renny Harlin, Elie Samaha, Sylvester Stallone

DIRECTOR: Renny Harlin

SCRIPT: Jan Skrentny, Neal Tabachnick, Sylvester Stallone

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mauro Fiore

EDITOR: Steve Gilson, Stuart Levy

MUSIC: BT

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Charles Wood

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 16, 2001







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