Monday, October 18, 2010

"Driven" (2001)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds and Kip Pardue
Written by Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Renny Harlin

Renny Harlin has a strange career as a director.  For every solid movie, he's got two or three that are just pretty dang awful.  "Driven" is one of those awful ones. 

A young race car driver, Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) is seen as the next big thing in racing as he comes up from nowhere to challenge the reigning champion, Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger).  But Bly is young and inexperienced, and has trouble handling the pressure of being the big star in the spotlight.  The team's owner, Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) decides to bring in his old friend Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) to be Jimmy's partner.  Joe used to be in Jimmy's position - the hot young star, but he lost it all because he couldn't handle it and lost focus on his driving.

But Jimmy's problems are several: His brother, Demille (Robert Sean Leonard) is also his manager, who puts far too many demands on Jimmy.  He's too focused on making them both rich and famous, and Jimmy can't really handle it.  Jimmy is also developing a crush on Brandenburg's fiance, Sophia (Estella Warren).  We follow Jimmy and Joe through their ups and downs as the racing season continues, coming down to the big championship in Germany. 

"Driven" is a pretty bad movie.  Not only is it pretty damn boring, with a dull script loaded with bad characters and some really awful plot developments, but it's loaded with terrible special effects that ruin what might've been a few decently cool crashes during the dull racing segments.  The romantic subplot between Jimmy and Sophia is practically stillborn.  The two have zero chemistry, and about two-thirds of the way through the movie, she actually leaves him and goes back to Brandenburg and we're still somehow meant to believe that she gives a damn about him at all.  Throughout the first part of the movie, Demille makes jokes about Sophia "getting around," and the movie does nothing to disprove any of these things.  None of the actors seem invested in their roles.  Burt Reynolds overacts rather than put any effort into the proceedings and Stallone barely has any presence at all.

The races probably could've saved "Driven," at least enough to make it watchable, but instead they damn the picture even more than the script and bad acting.  The CGI bits are just awful, poorly composited, poorly animated... Just terrible all around. 

"Driven" is bad.  I like Sylvester Stallone, both as an actor and as a filmmaker, but here he stumbles hard.  Renny Harlin has made a couple of good movies, too, but this isn't one of them.