All in all I found Driven to be a meandering mess of a movie. Too many characters with too many stories and not enough interest in any of them to make the movie enjoyable.
Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) is the new kid on the block in the CART racing league. When the movie opens, he's already come in second a few times, and won a couple races, beating the #1 guy in the league, Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger). But Jimmy is already showing signs of falling apart, of not being able to handle the pressure. So team owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) calls in an old friend and former racer Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) to help the kid out. Apparently Tanto had a horrifying crash years ago, but in the movie he mentions it for a second but manages to get back into a car pretty quickly. Also pushing Bly to win is his brother and manager DeMille (Robert Sean Leonard), a guy who is all business, and not so much brother. Bly also gets into trouble when he falls for Brandenburg's ex-girlfriend Sophia (Estella Warren). Also along for the ride is a reporter (Stacy Edwards) who must have had most of her role left on the cutting room floor, Tanto's ex-wife Cathy (Gina Gershon) and her new husband Memo Moreno (Cristian De La Fuente). So of course everyone knows how the movie ends. Even though Stallone wrote this movie, unlike the classic Rocky movie, the underdog actually manages to win.
My biggest problem is that I didn't care about any of these people. There were so many of them that none of them were more than a face. There was little or no background on any of the characters. They were just sort of thrown in there to add drama? Let's take Stallone's character, Joe Tanto. From reading the production notes I found out he was in a horrific crash that almost killed him a few years ago. We never see this crash, and we never really discuss the crash. But for someone who almost died while racing, and the apparently quit because of it, he manages to hop back into a race car pretty quickly. Burt Reynolds is in a wheelchair in the movie. Why? Who knows. Maybe he was also in the crash, but I don't recall the movie mentioning that. Why is the reporter there? Early on they say she's doing an in-depth article on racing and men, but her character then just disappears, only to come back as some sort of love interest for Tanto. Tanto's ex wife Cathy also shows up just to yell at Tanto and flaunt her new man in front of him. No idea what happened to their marriage. If she didn't like the fact that Tanto was a racer, why would she turn around and marry another one?
There you can see my second problem. Too many story lines. Tanto and Carl Henry. Tanto and Bly. Tanto and his ex-wife. Tanto and the reporter. Bly and Sophia. Bly and Brandenburg. Bly and Henry. Bly and DeMille. Sophia and Brandenburg. Memo and Tanto. Memo and Henry. So manyy different story lines, but not many of them connected to each other. And the movie just jumps back and forth between stories without focusing on any one of them. I would have preferred to have gotten rid of the reporter and ex-wife, since they had nothing to do with anything. Focus on Jimmy Bly and the pressures he faces. Focus on his relationships with everyone, and leave out the side stories. If the movie was more focused, it may have been more enjoyable.
The racing sequences were fun enough to watch, but even then some of the scenes seemed forced. When they are racing in the rain, they show these strange shots from inside the car of water hitting the windshield. While it may be what drivers actually see when racing in the rain, it looked more like animators wanting to try something different, rather than an effect that had something to do with racing. The race through the street of Chicago was fun, but considering you had two guys flying at close to 200mph through the city, all they got was a fine from the racing league? Somehow I don't see that happening.
The acting performances were OK. I think the lack of focus hurt the acting, since none of the characters had any real depth to them. And at times I couldn't understand a word Stallone was saying. Maybe that's my fault, or something was wrong with the sound, but there were a couple of scenes where he was talking, and I could see his mouth moving, and there were sounds coming out, but I had no idea what he was saying.
Actually come to think of it, I think the real stars of the movie were the sponsors. Racing movies must be heaven for product placement guys. The entire movie could have been paid for just from Motorola, Target and Nextel. I read that there are around 120 different products in the movie. There can't be more than a couple of minutes that go by without some sort of advertisement flashing by. I'm not saying it was annoying, or even distracting, it was just something I noticed while watching.
So overall, I think Driven had the chance to be an entertaining and exciting movie, but it lacked focus and character development. Considering it was written by Sylvester Stallone, who knows a thing or two about writing a movie, I would have thought we would have at least learned more about the background of the major characters, so we could feel something for them. But as it stands, all they are, are just faces with no souls.
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