Film Reviews

DRIVEN

By • Apr 27th, 2001 •

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Director Renny Harlin never has an erection without expecting applause. Harlin may be a testosterone prince in Hollywood but his heavy-handed display falls limp here. DRIVEN is “fueled” with phallic symbols such as: young women eating hot dogs and licking other long, thin foods, tall steel buildings, and endless shots of pumps going into fuel tanks. Like the in-your-face camera work so effective in “Octavio and Susana,” the first story of the Mexican film AMORES PERROS, most of DRIVEN is shot in extreme close-up. Yet Harlin does not capture the fierce machismo tension that director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu got out of his actors. Perhaps the DRIVEN actors were keeping “I gotta look sexy” and “pose” thoughts rattling in their heads.

The DRIVEN screenplay is by Sylvester Stallone. I sure would like to see DRIVEN’S 10 page screenplay. It goes to prove that 25 years as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars does not necessarily mean you have to actually have to read screenplays along the way. Why bother with developing a story when you’ve got fast cars and lots of product placement? DRIVEN has no actual story but to his credit, Stallone – as former great racing car driver Joe Tanto – stays out of the way and is not the focus of the movie. And he’s not competing with the younger guys to prove who is faster and leaner. He’s a supporting player who has new hairdos for every scene. Race car team owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds – whose close-ups are the audience’s penance) calls Tanto out of genteel retirement to help “coach” and support his young star Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue). Henry’s team’s biggest competition is Beau Brandenberg (Til Schweiger, an actor who – in a promotion for the film that runs every ten minutes at my athletic club – is hailed by one of DRIVEN’S producers and shameless self-promoter Elie Samaha as “The next big rising star.” Well, he does have a rather nice James Dean-on-the-cross appeal).

This being a Stallone vehicle, there’s a scene where Henry yells at Tanto. Why do multi-millionaire male movie stars require they are either yelled at or humiliated (see Mel Gibson in the recent WHAT WOMEN WANT) in their films? Is this how they feel they are bonding with the middle-aged male audience?

I didn’t learn anything about race car driving except there are no off-track dramas, intrigues, or fascinating stories in the field that could be mined. One would think otherwise. What I did learn is that the race car world has quite a Protestant work ethic and decent morals.

The female characters are meagerly drawn: Tanto’s ex-wife Cathy (Gina Gershon) is still bitter he dropped her. Why so angry? She’s still on the circuit and snagged the sexy (and much younger) race car driver Memo (Cristian de la Fuente) who worships her. Gershon, in deciding to do her part justice, plays it so that her character has as much testosterone as her male co-stars. Beau’s girlfriend is played by Estella Warren, whose “job” appears to be professional race car girlfriend. Estella gets points for being gorgeous and not 82 pounds. The thankless role of journalist (and potential love interest for heterosexual Tanto) is the hard-edged Lou, played by Stacy Edwards.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention my nominee for “rising star”: Target. This is certainly Target’s year with JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS and now DRIVEN. This newest find is sure to be a major Hollywood star. I liked his work in PUSSYCATS, and DRIVEN reveals a darker, grittier talent. I would recommend his agents should look for a sci-fi thriller next to develop his range.

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