I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Driven

tn_driven
chapter 2

2001posterreleased April 27, 2001

DRIVEN is a weird footnote in the overlapping filmographies of Sylvester Stallone and Renny Harlin. It’s no CLIFFHANGER, and it’s not trying to be. If anything maybe it wants to be the ROCKY V of Formula 1 race car driving. Or whatever type of race cars they’re driving in this one. They’re not NASCAR I can tell.

Okay, stop the presses, I just looked it up (it turns out I’m on the internet right now). I guess Formula 1 is very secretive like the Masons so Stallone couldn’t get enough info on them and switched the movie to be about “ChampCar” racing. I guess that’s why they didn’t make a big deal of what type of racing it was in the movie, ’cause nobody was gonna get excited about something called “ChampCar.”

It’s an ensemble cast. Kip Pardue from RULES OF ATTRACTION (who still looks like a teenager here) is the young hotshot racing prodigy, Robert Sean Leonard is his brother and douchebag manager, Til Schweiger from INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is his rival driver, Estella Warren is Schweiger’s girl who switches over to Pardue at one point, and then Stallone is Joe Tanto (an ancestor of Machine Gun Joe Paturbo?) who’s been out of racing for a while, gets called back, butts heads with the other characters, teaches them lessons, etc. Cast members who get somewhat short-changed include Burt Reynolds (with mustache) as the paraplegic coach or whatever, Gina Gershon as Stallone’s crazy ex-wife, Cristian de La Fuente as her new husband, and Stacy Edwards as a reporter.

mp_drivenWhat makes DRIVEN feel really odd is the expectations of being a Stallone movie. He wrote it, his name is above the title, his giant face is on most of the posters, the first shot is an extreme closeup of his eyes. But if it was just some dude playing him I wouldn’t keep thinking he was the main character. Of course he’s an important part of the ensemble, but the story is more about the rivalry between the two younger racers. In fact during the movie’s most dramatic sequence of events, when two of the racers quit the race to rescue another who’s crashed into water and surrounded by burning fuel, Stallone stays out of it.

The story is interesting in the sense that alot of it doesn’t go the way you would assume it would. For example Stallone’s character Joe comes back thinking he’s got a new shot at winning, but Reynolds uses tricks to hold him back and makes him illegally block Schweiger to help the kid win. And then he dramatically faces off with Burt and tells him to never ask him to do that again. Normally this means they’ll have another incident but Joe will refuse and win the race or something like that. Instead he just remains a supporting team member. The movie is never about him having a comeback or becoming a champion, or even trying to. At one point he says “I got nothin to prove,” and he’s pretty much right.

He’s definitely showing off when he does a trick of throwing a bunch of quarters on the track and driving over them so they stick to the tires. And he does it to the tune of that song that I guess must be called “Money Money Money (Money).” But otherwise he stays pretty humble.

Some of the character relationships are interesting too. They’re rivals and they get mad at each other, but they also kind of like each other. I like Stallone’s interactions with de la Fuente because they should hate each other because of Gershon (and she tries her hardest) but the new husband is really nice so they stay friends the whole time. (Not sure why either of ’em stay with that crazy bitch though.)

I’m not saying it’s realistic, but it’s sadly lacking in preposterousness for a Renny Harlin joint. One major exception is when the two young racers get in a fight over the girl at a party. Pardue throws a fit and takes off in a race car that happens to be on display and fully operational. Stallone, in his role as troop leader or resident advisor, jumps in the other decorative car and chases after him, so basically they have a 195 mph chase through downtown Chicago. When it’s all over they’re able to stand in the road and have an emotionally charged conversation without the cops ever having any words with them.

One odd touch is the lack of emotion everybody seems to show when there’s a horrible car crash. I know it’s their profession and everything but you’d think a brother, girlfriend, wife or mentor would betray some slight hint of concern when their loved one is flipping through the air in a burning chunk of metal. I guess somebody told them it was PG-13.

Estella Warren was a model-turned-actress who showed up again later in the summer in PLANET OF THE APES, so she was hyped up at the time as kind of an “It Girl.” Since then she’s done some smaller movies and a week or two ago was arrested for allegedly hitting 3 parked cars during a DUI. She’s not bad in this, but seems too exotically beautiful for the race track. I was relieved when she turned out to just be a girlfriend and not a mechanic or something. Her hobby is displaying her crotch in a water dancing routine performed in a hotel swimming pool (turns out Warren is a three time Canadian national champion in synchronized swimming, so that was a good use of her talents).

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS came out later in the summer and was clearly the world’s preferred car race movie. The race scenes here don’t have the same sort of flashy artificial look. It’s fairly lo-fi (I think some of the crashes were even done with miniatures) but Harlin’s definitely dipping into the bag of filmatical tricks to get through all these different races in different cities. It actually feels like the movie is about half montage, with all these condensed races and quick establishing shots of race fans, chubby people stuffing down hot dogs, suggestive churro eating girls, etc. The dvd extras brag about “3,000 shot setups.” Most of the racing has to be constantly explained by color commentators. It kept reminding me of TALLADEGA NIGHTS. I’m not sure if that’s ’cause that movie was based on this or because both were based on DAYS OF THUNDER.

This failed to be a great racing movie or a great Stallone movie, but it’s not terrible. I guess I was about right when I kind of wanted to see it but never got around to it for ten years.

* * *

legacy: DRIVEN lost a bunch of money and pretty much knocked Harlin out of the A or B or whichever list he was on after recovering from CUT THROAT ISLAND. It took him three years to get another movie made, and that was MINDHUNTERS. It also helped send Stallone into a post-COP LAND rough patch, finally recovering five years later with a much better old-athlete-out-of-retirement movie, ROCKY BALBOA.

2001-2011 connections: I guess Stallone does the voice for an animal in some Kevin James movie that’s coming out

Would they make a movie this today? Probly not, but it doesn’t really seem hugely dated, other than not acknowledging their sport being overshadowed by NASCAR.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 at 9:34 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

43 Responses to “Driven”

  1. This movie was hyped a lot in the German media when it was made, because it was not just Til Schweiger’s biggest Hollywood role to that date (He was in THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS before that), but also German model Verona Feldbusch (who made a career out of being the ex-wife of a famous music producer and making jokes about herself being stupid) and teenie star Jasmin Wagner (a.k.a. “Blümchen” http://youtu.be/YUE7TZfUITE ) were supposed to “star” in it.
    Turned out that one role had no dialogue, another one had only one line and all critics hated the film anyway, which made the local media ridicule the movie whenever they could for a while.

  2. The main thing I remember about this movie is the weird car chase, Vern. Glad it still holds up.

  3. shot in toronto so thats why the production value was shit.

  4. I saw this once and once only. I can’t believe this is from 2001. It seems so 1995.

  5. Oh, and keep up the good work, Vern. I love it when you get on a roll like this.

  6. I think Darryll is right. This film felt dated the day it came out. I remember thinking the poster we had in our theatre making it look like Days of Thunder or something. It’s not bad and it moves at a pretty good pace and doesn’t drag. If this was the worst Stallone had done the world would be a better place. Still, I think Vern is right in what I infer to be his assertion that this kind of burned off the goodwill he had from Cop Land.

  7. I too remember not hating this.

    It’s competently directed, the script is decent, and Stallone is fine as the mentor guy. But I think a film like this pretty much hinges on its main characters – of course, Pardue is a total charisma void, and I don’t think Schweiger works effectively as the “villain”. And Warren is just another pretty face with zero presence.

    Sure, if Harlin had gone all Michael Bay on this film, I think he could have made the cast work. Blow shit up, shoot it like a beer commercial and molest Estella Warren with the camera. Boom!

    But while Harlin does throw in some slow-mo and other stylistic flourishes – and along with Tony Scott, he *was* pretty much considered to be Michael Bay before Michael Bay – he instead directs this like an actual sports drama. Unfortunately, a film like that requires a cast with talent way out of the league of this particular bunch.

  8. For the record, The Fast and the Furious had people trying to race their cars in the parking lot and nearby streets to our theatre that summer. The cops even started coming out to preemptively stop that on Friday and Saturday nights. I don’t remember the same happening with this film. I don’t know of a better measure to determine which was the superior film.

  9. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    June 8th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    This and the movie where Stallone is trapped in a tunnel seemed to put him so far out of the action scene that I wondered if he would ever make an action movie again. Thank the lord that over the next ten years he would pull his head out of his ass and get back on track. But back then, I thought it was game over for action movies.

  10. Okay, I’m going to guiltily admit that I really liked “Stop or my Mom Will Shoot.”

    Don’t throw the book at me!

    I don’t think I”m going to see this one though. Sorry Vern.

  11. A year or so after Driven came out I finally saw it in the oddest of places under the most stressful of circumstances. My (then) roommate had tried to kill himself while my other roommate and I were asleep. The guy’s girlfriend was on the phone with him when he tried to do it, so she called the cops. Cops kick in the door, wake us up and have us come with him to the emergency room. While he’s being pumped and profiled for a 5150 I’m sitting in the waiting room, waiting for this guy’s family and girlfriend to show up. On the TV in the waiting room is Driven, a movie I should have already seen since I was (and still am) a big Stallone fan. I don’t remember why I didn’t see it when it first came out, but I hadn’t. So I used this rather unfortunate chunk of time to catch up. Needless to say, mediocre as I knew it clearly was, I was immediately in a better place because of it. For that much, it will hold a one-of-a-kind place in my heart.

    The movie that really torched any goodwill Stallone had left after Cop Land was Get Carter. Fuck, forget torched it, fucking nuked it.

    Vern you should do Days of Thunder some time. Talk about a ridiculous guilty pleasure.

  12. I like this one just fine. As Vern said, it’s the performances that make it.

    I thought Burt Reynolds was pretty good. I mean you got The Bandit AND Rocky in the same movie, that’s pretty cool. I think the best performance though came from Robert Sean Leonard. He was very Spader-esque in his portrayal of yuppie scum.

    And I agree with Jaimerey; Days of Thunder is fucking spectacular as a Manly Man guilty pleasure.

  13. Thanks Jack for getting my back on DOT. And I agree with you about Robert Sean Leonard in Driven. When he first came out everybody had him pegged as a sensitive type. But I always thought he would be great playing a kind of sleaze and Driven proves it. If you haven’t seen it you should check out a little movie Richard Linklater directed called Tape. Robert Sean Leonard is great in it and it’s kind of a nice little headturner of a film.

    All right, game time: 5 best Stallone movies, 5 worst Stallone movies. I’ll go first…

    Best:
    Lock Up
    Nighthawks
    Rocky
    First Blood
    Victory

    Worst:
    Get Carter
    The Specialist
    Rocky V
    The Expendables
    Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot (sorry mac)

  14. Okay I’ll play.

    Best:
    Rocky
    First Blood
    Demolition Man
    Copland
    Cliffhanger
    (never seen Nighthawks, Victory or F.I.S.T.)

    Okay:
    Rocky 2,3,4 and Rocky Balboa
    Tango and Cash
    Rambo
    Judge Dredd
    Assassins

    Worst:
    Rhinestone
    Stop or My Mom Will Shoot!(full disclosure..I never actually finished this one but from what I saw it was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen)
    Rocky V
    Rambo 2 and 3(I’m going to count them as one since they blend together in my mind anyway)
    Cobra

  15. Here are my favorites and least favorites:

    Favorites:
    Rocky
    First Blood
    Cobra
    Demolition Man
    Cop Land

    Least Favorites:
    The Expendables
    Judge Dredd
    Rambo 3
    Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
    Get Carter

    Finding 5 movies that I didn’t enjoy was harder than it was to make the first less. I think Stop! and The Expendables are pretty awful but the others are almost watchable. I think people are overly harsh on Rocky 5. I saw it again recently and it was enjoyable and pretty decent. It feels the least like the rest of the series, but I like it.

  16. Honestly, I should amend my worst. Rambo 3 is way worse than Rocky 5.
    F.I.S.T. is really good but not great enough; it sort of drags in parts.

  17. Best
    Rocky 1-6 (I consider them to be chapters of a man’s life, not sequels in a franchise)
    Rambo 1,2, 4 (The more I watch Rambo 4, the more it becomes my favorite Rambo)
    Tango and Cash (Why Sly and Kurt never re-teamed is beyond me)
    Cobra (Crime is the disease, meet the cure)
    Demolition Man (Anyone who says Sly can’t do comedy never saw this one)

    Worst
    The Italian Stallion
    Avenging Angelo
    The Specialist
    Eye See You
    Assassins

  18. Driven has a reputation as being a really terrible movie, I’m surprised to hear it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be

    anyway Demolition Man has always been my favorite Stallone movie

  19. also holy crap, did someone say Blumchen? http://naziforest.ytmnd.com/

  20. God, this was 2001. I totally hated this movie then. It was so stupid, hammy and way too many CGI tires flying at camera. Maybe it’s not as bad in retrospect.

    Forgot 1 Fast 1 Furious was ’01. That’ll be good, especially in light of how far the franchise came.

    Stallone:

    Best
    First Blood
    Rocky II (I like him dealing with celebrity, commercial endorsements, et al)
    Cliffhanger
    Tango and Cash
    Copland for performance

    Worst
    D-Tox/Eye See You
    Driven
    Oscar
    Judge Dredd
    The Italian Stallion

    never saw Rhinestone

  21. ThomasCrown442

    June 8th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Best (in no particular order):

    1. The Rocky Saga
    2. The Rambo Saga
    3. Demolition Man
    4. Tango & Cash
    5. Cliffhanger

    Runners Up

    1. The Specialist (James Woods baby!)
    2. F.I.S.T. (underrated)
    3. Assassins

    Worst (in no particular order):

    1. Oscar
    2. Judge Dredd (although armand assante was awesome)
    3. Cobra (its always good for a laugh)
    4. Get Carter
    5. Driven

    Honestly, the only thing I can remember about Driven was Gina Gershon in incredibly tight jeans and that stupid car chase in the streets. Other than that, fucking boring.

  22. I saw this one in the theater and was terribly disappointed. It was so forgettable that I forgot Burt “Mutha Fuckin” Reynolds was in it until reading Vern’s review, and I am a huge Burt fan. Actually, the only thing I do remember was how terrible Kip Pardue is in it.

  23. Ok, the great Stallone rundown, by Paul!

    FIRST BLOOD – A masterpiece. Simple as that. How does Stallone do? – This is probably his best performance ever.

    DEMOLITION MAN – While Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone try to match each other ham-for-ham (I think Snipes just about takes the hammiest performance Oscar, but it’s close) the most unintentionally funny part of this film is watching Sandra Bullock completely steal every scene that she’s in from beneath its “stars”. How does Stallone do? – he basically does his usual schtick but dials it up a few notches. It ain’t exactly original, but sometimes it’s fun to see something familiar being used in an unexpected way.

    ROCKY – Ok, it hasn’t stood up to the test of time all that well. Still good, but it’s mentioned a lot now as a case where Oscar got it wrong. I’d agree with that: I really couldn’t remember that much about it after watching it. How does Stallone do? – very well indeed.

    TANGO AND CASH – This has always been one of my favorite of the “eighties buddy movie”. Everything about it screams “eighties”. Which is kinda funny, considering it came out in 1990 over here. How does Stallone do? – he’s got great chemistry with Jeff Bridges in this one. It’s quite funny to see him play a more refined version of the tough cop – he even wears spectacles in an eighties action movie, who DOES that? – while Bridges gets to do the “tough guy” routine.

    CLIFFHANGER – This one was just ok for me. There was one really good fight in a cave, I think. The villains were more interesting than the heroes, but nobody came out of this one looking great. John Lithgow is wasted. How does Stallone do? – he’s Stallone, he does what Stallone does.

    ROCKY 5 – I’m amazed how bad this film’s reputation is. Ok, there are some really dumb moments, but seriously… it’s not that awful. How does Stallone do? – I thought he came off pretty well.

    STOP OR MY MOM… – This is Stallone’s choice for his worst film ever. It’s not mine. Ok, the “humour” is pretty cringe-worthy, but it’s not as bad as some of his other films. How does Stallone do? – it doesn’t help that he plays a Mommy’s boy in this film, but he actually has good chemistry at times with his unlikely partner here.

    JUDGE DREDD – A bad action film that’s not exciting or fun, this one is just worthless. How does Stallone do? – well his performance is terrible, but at least he’s trying to do SOMETHING in it. It doesn’t work, but you gotta give Stallone credit for at least attempting to salvage something.

    THE EXPENDABLES – yeah, I put this one down as WORSE than Judge Dredd. That should say something. There’s a couple of interesting things about it at least (Steve Austin is good, Dolph Lundgren is well-handled) but the score is terrible and the action sequences are incomprehensible. How does Stallone do? – I haven’t seen some of the movies generally regarded as his “worst” (“Get Carter”, “Driven”, etc) but I can’t imagine he’s ever turned in a worse performance than this one. In a movie this bad, it take something special to be considered the worst thing in it. Stallone achieves that homour.

    THE SPECIALIST – the film that has the worst-scored “sexy” shower scene in the history of cinema. Seriously, just listen to that horrible, horrible music. With unlikeable, undefinable characters and an uninteresting story, I can’t think of a single reason to watch this. How does Stallone do? – really badly actually. After Sharon Stone was such a great match-up for Arnold in “Total Recall”, this should’ve been great, but unfortunately the only chemistry in this movie is between Stallone / Stone and their respective egos.

    D-TOX – that most annoying of films, a mystery without any clues to WORK OUT whodunnit, where none of the characters are interesting enough for you to CARE whodunnit, but where you’ll probably GUESS whodunnit anyway. How does Stallone do? – No worse than anybody else in this shitpile.

    ASSASSINS – couldn’t even get through this one, no matter how hard I tried, so I gotta put it dead last.

    *

    Films I’ve seen but can barely remember- Rocky 3, Rocky 4. Films I WANT to see but haven’t – Cop Land, Driven.

  24. Oh yeah, forgot about Rambo 2 and 3. I think I intentionally blocked them out. Couldn’t get through either of them so put them down at the bottom with “Assassins”.

  25. Rocky hasn’t held up well with the test of time? Whaaaaat?

  26. Paul — Jeff Bridges in TANGO AND CASH? I thought it was Kurt Russell. Corny, hammy movie though, but it’s kind of intentional so you can’t really fault it for that.

    JUDGE DREDD is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. But it is true, Armand Assante was pretty great in it, an almost Ricardo Montalban in WRATH OF KHAN – level scenery-chewing performance. And Diane Lane is smokin hot.

    I have never understood the love for DEMOLITION MAN. I couldn’t finish watching the first time I tried to see it, and even though I have seen bits and pieces of it from time to time on TV I am not sure I have ever seen the entire movie. I’m not saying it’s terrible I guess but whatever.

  27. It’s entirely possible that Demolition Man is one of those movies I saw at the right age with my father but I think it’s just great. It’s so campy and over the top. I especially love the beginning where they give the 80’s (I know this was made in the 90’s) dystopian crimewave world setting. Snipes is awesome in it and I think Stallone is great, too. Even some of the intentional jokes are funny (such as Stallone learning knitting in cryogenic sleep whereas Snipes just learns how to shoot more guns). For me, it’s one of those movies that manages to be both intentionally and unintentionally funny and I can’t think of too many other movies that manages that.

    For me this film just works. My father would always rent really bad movies from the rental shop and whenever we stumbled upon a good one it always felt kind of special. Then again, I have fond memories of the Highlander sequels until they started to veer into softcore porn territory. That’s always weird to see with your parents.

  28. What part of DEMOLITION MAN was unintentionally funny? I only remember it being intentionally funny.

  29. Mattman Begins

    June 9th, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    You GUESS the song is called “Money Money Money (Money)”? Vern, I’m surprised you’re not up on your O’Jays. Surprised enough that I had to say something. Which makes me look pretty damn awkward when most of the discussion is about Stallone’s filmography. So…uh…”For The Love Of Money”, then. I’ll just show myself out.

  30. I love you, Paul.

    I watched Demolition Man fairly recently. Not as funny as I remember it.

  31. Knox Harrington

    June 10th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    People don’t like Assassins?

  32. Richard Donner doesn’t even like Assassins. He says Joel Silver conned him into doing it. I thought it was fun.

  33. But Mattman, I’m a fan of “Song Titles With Unnecessary Parentheses (In Them).” If it was “For the Love (Of Money)” maybe I would acknowledge it, but until then “Money Money Money (Money)” is preferred.

  34. Random Stallone film musings…
    -Cop Land – Wicked Awesome
    -Rocky 4 – Not a good film, but awesome and consistently entertaining.
    -Get Carter – Underrated, but not great
    -Expendables – huge disappointment
    -Rambo – Pretty good
    -Rocky Balboa – Very good
    Driven – meh

  35. Paul – I can’t believe you can’t think of a single reason to watch The Specialist. JAMES FUCKING WOODS. He is AMAZING in this movie, and I’ll easily put his character up with Clarence Boddicker from Robocop, Strannix from Under Siege, and Peoples Hernandez from Shaft as the top villains of all time. I swear he probably gets more screentime than Stallone, and the fact that he’s partnered with and bossing around cops makes the whole movie an interesting twist on The Fugitive. His faceoff with Stallone over the phone is electrifying, and the closest I’ve seen to a wrestling promo captured on the big screen. Watch:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v95_3Ox1V0

    Also, ROD FUCKING STEIGER. “Joooooo…….jooooooooo bastardo!” This whole board and anyone who likes Nicolas Cage-style mega-acting should thank their lucky stars for The Specialist.

  36. Vern, your appreciation for parenthetical song titles is definitely shared (by me). My favorite one I’ve come across is the Tracy and the Plastics song “Bear (Attacking)”. That one never fails to make me smile.

  37. I remember nodding off a couple of times during this.
    Writer Stallone manages to get some more of his weird character names in there, though.
    MEMO MORENO!

  38. I’ll never get over (Vern getting over parenthetical song titles.

  39. This thread is about to cross over into The Mummy Returns thread by way of Meatloaf – master of parenthetical song titles. “If this is the Last Kiss (let’s make it last all night)”, “Life is a Lemon (and I want my money back)”, “Out of the Frying Pan (and into the fire)”, “Objects in the Rearview Mirror (may appear closer than they are)”, “I”d lie for you (and that’s the truth)”, and of course “I would do Anything For Love (but I won’t do that)”. The man is unstoppable.

  40. True, it’s a lot more amusing (that way). I’m also a fan of those endless James Brown song titles that ended in “(Part One)”, as though they were suspenseful TV episodes with the conclusion to some great mystery in “(Part Two)” instead of just needing to fade out the album version to have a marketable single. The prize-takers here are surely parenthetical best-of-both-worlds like “Mother Popcorn (You Got To Have A Mother For Me) (Part One)” and “For Goodness Sakes (Take A Look At Those Cakes) (Part One)”. Although there is also the nonsensical “Part Two (Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn)”, where I think the record label got confused.

  41. Probably I’m wrong, but I believe fast cars usually are useless nowadays. Additionally, I am sure actually more keen than ever before. It is more traffic and much more difficult to journey, and when it is possible to drive it immediately tempts you. And that can only bring about an accident. What do you imagine my friends? BTW, I’m sorry that and so i ask in this topic as well as a comment, but last handled me sad situation and I am keen to a person’s opinion.

  42. this? is the song i love it reminds me of of boyfriend!!

  43. Best part of Rocky V is the montage of the Drago fight, this time done to Bill Conti’s fight music instead of the 80’s synth score.

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