Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Kip Pardue, Til Schweiger
Director: Renny Harlin
Writer: Sylvester Stallone; story by Sylvester Stallone, Neal Tabachnick, and Jan Skrentny

I’ve got to hand it to Sylvester Stallone for his savvy in grabbing Renny Harlin, one of Hollywood’s best action directors for his race car themed, Driven. For without Harlin and the elite tech team of Mauro Fiore as cinematographer and Stuart Levy and Steve Gilson as editors, this film would be pretty tepid fare, indeed. So, if you choose to see this film, it will be for the exciting racing sequences and spectacular crashes. The story line produces minor conflicts among some of the characters but the weakest character of all is Stallone’s.

Stallone plays Joe Tanto, a washed up race car driver, who’s called in by former boss and team owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds), to help bolster the natural talent of Carl’s newest driver, Jimmy Bly (Pardue). Bly’s been driving neck and neck with champion Beau Brandenburg (Schweiger) and with a little help from Tanto, Carl believes Bly can out-engine anyone on the track. However, right now the young racer is distracted and undisciplined. It only gets worse when Beau dumps his girlfriend, the beautiful Sophia (Estella Warren), who then innocently takes up with Jimmy.

Joe Tanto has his own problems. Being back on the track brings good feelings but bad memories of his own underachievements and he gets to face his sniping, shrewish former wife Cathy played by Gina Gershon who’s now married to Joe’s best friend, because she says, “He’s a younger, better you.” Joe obviously knows the on and off the track challenges to championship. He’s been there, done that. Now if only Jimmy’s manager and older brother DeMille (Robert Sean Leonard) will let poor Joe do his job by making Jimmy a smarter, more confident driver. Here’s a story moment that flew right over Sly’s head when scripting. DeMille is incensed that Joe has been brought in but there is very little on screen friction between them to indicate that.

There’s insufficient drama between Joe and former wife Cathy; Carl and Joe have just one “big” scene of any worth and that’s filled with a bunch of verbal hooey. The relationship Jimmy builds with Sophia is surface only and so it goes. It’s all about the cars! That’s why the visual aspects to this film are so important.

Most of the time, Pardue as the rookie driver looks way too young to even own a driver’s license let alone fast track the race circuit. Burt Reynolds looks as if he’s had one too many facelifts but I have no complaints as to his acting. Estella Warren as Sophia does a serviceable acting job and looks fairly luscious except for one scene in an evening gown in which the costumer unwittingly chose to make her look pregnant. Gina Gershon looks skinny and sexy but it’s a thankless part. As for Sly Stallone, he looks picture perfect as the has-been (no pun intended). I’m only sorry that we really don’t get to explore his character far more than what’s presented on screen.

Lottta says: Driven is a good action film for car enthusiasts but it has nowhere near the emotion and character depth of Stallone’s best film to date, Rocky.

Also stars Cristian de la Fuente as Memo Moreno and Stacy Edwards – Lucretia “Luc” Jones. It’s rated PG13 for some violence and car crashes, language.

Reviewed 4/27/01