Driven movie poster
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Driven Movie Review

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Arnold Schwarzenneger. Steven Seagal. Sylvestor Stallone. What do these men all have in common? All of these men were at the top of their game ten years ago, pounding out some of the most popular and exciting movies you could find. And all of these men have not had a hit in the last five years, resorting to badly scripted action movies that are just poor clones of the very movies that they were starring in years before. They are Hollywood's wasted space, the leftovers of the Cold War. Or something like that.

Of course, they have all been trying to get a number one film for a long time. Schwarzenneger had a modest hit with End of Days, but Toy Story 2 crushed its hopes. Seagal finally got a number one spot with 2001's Exit Wounds, but it can't be considered a blockbuster. And then there is Sylvestor Stallone, who decided to team up with the director that gave him his last hit, Cliffhanger, in the early nineties, to make Driven, an action drama about race cars.

Action dramas are really the way to go for Stallone. Sure, he's not the best actor, with his breathless monotone voice, but this is the guy who did Rocky, and he also showed that he could act in Cop Land, which is his best movie since Cliffhanger. Furthermore, considering those two great movies, his best (meaning most well done) have been action dramas.

Driven introduces us to a young man who is making a storm in the racing community as he continues to excel towards the Championship. That is, of course, until he gets into a small crash and loses his nerve. So, his owner (Burt Reynolds, playing a rather smart but cold-hearted character) hires his old racing veteran (Sylvestor Stallone), who he kicked off the track to begin with, to get him back in line. To further complicate things, the young driver has fallen in love with the girlfriend (Estella Warren) of his racing nemesis, the defending world champion.

In terms of action, Driven has several fairly intense racing scenes that do properly give the sense of great speed. It usually isn't clear who is going to win the race, which is a good thing. There are some good crash scenes here and there (the graphics are another matter altogether), including a very good scene where the second string driver flips into a pond, and some of the other racers have to save him. However, Stallone fans might be disappointed that he is not the focus of attention, since he is the second string driver to the rookie and doesn't to see the track as much as some of the other characters. Still, he does get his day in the sun, especially in one race where he strategically cuts off the leader. I must note that Driven is highlighted by a fairly unbelievable but exciting race through downtown Chicago.

In terms of drama, Driven manages to blend it pretty well with the action, but still leaves a lot to be desired for. Most of the characters are either not given enough back story or are not given enough screen time to stand out, so what you get is an ensemble cast of several bland characters. Stallone is, I guess, the star of the film, so why not shed some more light on him? It really isn't that clear why he got kicked out in the first place, and that probably would have made for an interesting sub story (or maybe it would have worked better as the main story). The movie really had something going with the love triangle between the rookie, the defending champ, and his girlfriend, played by the lovely Estella Warren. Warren is a pretty strong character but doesn't get enough screen time (however, a lot more dialogue than in her other 2001 venture, Planet of the Apes), and I could really see the struggle she was facing in the movie. However, Driven leads the audience in one direction and then drops the storyline, and it seems as though something is missing from the movie.

One thing I did like was how the villain, the defending champion, was portrayed in the movie. He is not evil, like so many opposing characters are portrayed; he is just a guy who happens to want the Championship as much as the rookie does, and is also a little bothered by the fact that this new guy is trying to get some playing time with his girl. At some points he is mean, but at other points he is nice, and Driven does a good job of creating an antagonist without making him an actual bad guy. Of course, for some people (the stupider ones), they might not like having no character that they can truly hate. The only problem I have is with how this guy reacts to the final outcome of the film.

And the final outcome of the film... How is that? It's okay, I guess. It really could go either way, so that creates some suspense, but I must admit that I wasn't overly engrossed in the film so it really didn't matter. After the race is over, though, Driven wraps things up a little too quickly, as if the audience couldn't bear a couple more minutes of dialogue after the action is over.

Besides some loose ends that are never tied, Driven's biggest problem is the computer graphics. I watched the movie on a small screen on an airplane, so some of the glamour of the racing was taken away, but I still noticed some very poorly done computer graphics. The thing that this $80 million picture promoted most was the 'awesome crash scenes,' which in real racing is the only thing that excites me (I am still trying to figure out why people would want to sit down and watch 500 laps), and the thing that looks worst in Driven is the crash scenes. The computer graphics are just bad, and the people who made them had to know that the audience wouldn't be wooed by such cheesy visuals. It takes a lot of the fun out of the action scenes.

If the two can be compared, Driven is better than The Fast and the Furious just because it is smarter and has better acting, but by itself Driven looks like it still had a long way to go before it should have been released at theaters. The computer graphics are bad, and about a half hour of necessary character plots are left to the imagination. Driven is better than some of the Stallone movies that have come out in recent years, but this one shouldn't count as his comeback child.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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