Driven careens with gut-wrenching, wheel-gripping 24 mph auto-racing footage, shot during the course of nine races spanning five countries. Combining real footage with fantastic digital imagery, director Renny Harlin’s (Die Hard 2: Die Harder) technical tour de force keeps you on the edge of your seat when its on the track. But when it’s off the track, ouch — crash and burn. It’s exhilaratingly obvious how much human effort and good intentions went into making Driven, but fantastic footage does not a movie make. In the end, Driven is a soap opera with cardboard characters who speak psycho-babble. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t avoid scriptwriter Sly Stallone’s message: To get it together on the track you have to get it together off the track. In other words, men have gotta work out their problems with women or they’re gonna bust up, literally. The guys in Driven strut as if they are driven, they talk about being driven — they even drive a lot — but what makes them who they are, what makes them do this death-defying sport week in and week out? That basic need to know that drives an audience’s interest never quite gets out of the pit. Jimmy Blye (new blonde hunk Kip Purdue, Remember the Titans) is a talented but unfocused rookie. German Beau Brandenberg (Til Schweiger, Judas Kiss) dumps his fiance Sophia (champion swimmer and cover girl, Estella Warren) because he blames her for his failing on-track performance. Wheelchair-bound team owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) brings veteran racer Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) out of retirement to serve as a role model to the rookie. Complicating Joe’s return are two women: his ex-wife, Raquel Welch-lookalike Cathy (Gina Gershon) — who’s now married to young Chilean driver, Memo Moreno (Christian de la Fuente, TV’s Family Law) — and a feminist journalist/Susan Faludi clone, Lucretia Clan (Stacy Edwards). Given a second chance to prove himself, Joe goes all out — both on the race track, with a Rocky-like third-place finish, and off-track, as he dispenses wise-old-man advice whenever possible. In addition to the dust, Driven raises a lot of nagging questions. With spectacular car crashes every few minutes, how come nobody ever feels bad about their buddies getting wiped out so frequently? Why do the drivers never look at their engines or talk to their pit crews? Why does Burt Reynolds plastic-surgerized mug get more close-ups than the ravishing natural beauty, Estelle Warren? More importantly, why couldn’t any woman in the entire movie ever have a happy moment? Who wants to be a racing groupie if it’s all just bad hair and moping? The exciting parts of Driven deserve to be seen on the big screen, but you’ll feel you got your full money’s worth if you catch it at the bargain matinee prices.
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