A review of  Driven” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language, intense collisions

Run Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes


I can be had for the price of a cheesy popcorn movie, especially a tawdry guilty pleasure that sets the cinematic juices flowing.  Scriptless, plotless, and relatively witless, this is the total testosterone package.

Nine hundred million spectators, 250 miles per hour, 20 races, and  one championship.  That’s the premise behind Sylvester Stallone’s (producer, screenwriter) last ditch labor of love.  Stallone is former racing star Joe Tanto, a disgraced has-been whose career has spun out of control after a near fatal accident.  An unexpected phone call from handicapped seasoned race car owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) puts Joe back in the game, as a support driver for the tour’s flavor-of-the-month, Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue).  Jimmy’s got baggage of his own, in the form of an overly-ambitious promoter brother (Robert Sean Leonard) and a cocky, unfocused attitude.  Hot on Jimmy’s heels is arch nemesis and uber-champion Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger), who isn’t going down without his pedal to the maximum metal.

Cut through the who-knew-who-when tangents and the insignificant love triangles, and you’ve got the basic need for speed.  This is one enormous adrenaline rush – a two-hour, glossy MTV climax.  Race after nail-biting race, the drivers navigate their automobiles with a steely-eyed, hormonal high. Stallone lends his weary warhorse an earnest edge, looking ultra-sincere while delivering pearls of wisdom like “fear is never gone”.  Reynolds is pure corn, the victim of poorly applied burn make-up or a really bad facelift. Pardue, Schweiger, and love interest Estella Warren are cherubic, chiseled, and beguilingly pouty, respectively.

So sue me, I love fast cars.  Sleek and explosive, pounding around the track with gut-wrenching rhythm.  The pulsating sounds of pop tunes reverberating at maximum decibels, the bittersweet taste of failure and regret, and the hot pursuit for glory.  If this doesn’t spell guilty pleasure, what does?