Sunday, October 04, 2015

Movie review - "Driven" (2001) **

Odd kind of a movie - although written by Sylvester Stallone and starring him, it was directed by someone else (Renny Harlin) and isn't really a Sly star vehicle - I mean he is the lead but there's plenty of other parts as well. Maybe it would have been better as a star movie.

There's lots of colour and movement and cars driving around the track and montages and shots of people watching the track action wearing headphones and commentators talking and tough, terse dialogue among drivers and their girls. And it's actually not bad if you're watching it on the couch on a Sunday afternoon.

But there's not much point to it. Or if there was it got buried under subplots and poor character development. Kip Pardue is a young up and coming driver who is having trouble handling fame so manager Burt Reynolds hires former champ Sly Stallone to mentor him. Pardue pinches Estella Warren, recently dumped girlfriend of his rival Til Schweiger; Pardue's also got a greedy brother manager Robert Sean Leonard. And in case this isn't enough we've got Stallone's ex Gina Gershon who is married to Pardue's driving partner Cristian de la Fuente.

Stallone isn't known for writing ensemble pieces and he struggles to give weight to all the characters. When it comes to Pardue, Reynolds and Stallone he's on sure ground - the pressure of fame, the importance of doing things for the love of it, lost regrets, etc... this is all solid stuff, feels very much in the Rocky vein, good characterisations.

It's less good elsewhere. Estella Warren's character confused me - she's played tough and independent but really is just a girlfriend, right? And when Schweiger dumps her she becomes Pardue's "friend" (we don't see them kiss)... but still goes on the circuit with him and watches races, is that right? But then goes back to Schweiger? Stallone accuses Pardue of deliberately pinching Warren in order to get up Schweiger's nose, which actually is an interesting story but never backed up by what we see on screen (Warren and Pardue don't kiss) or in Pardue's bland performance - he's a pretty boy with shiny skin and that's about it.

Also disappointing is Gina Gershon, who comes on looking fantastic with this intriguing relationship with Stallone, but nothing is done with her. Her husband turns up and smiles and gets injured and that's about it for him. And her. And Stacy Edwards is in the film as this kind of love interest for Stallone but she feels undercooked too. And Robert Sean Leonard looks around gamely for point to his character (although he's got more to do than the women).

I got the impression at times Stallone was going for a Howard Hawks vibe here - a bunch of men in love with each other, really, with macho women who match them, and being cool under pressure.They didn't get there.

The car racing scenes are well done enough but suffer from the same problem of all car racing movies - you go around and around in circles, you know the star isn't going to die. The one terrific sequence was when Stallone heads off after an upset Pardue driving racing cars through Toronto streets at night - this was exciting. I also enjoyed seeing the children's creche at the race course where all the drivers took their kids. Schweiger looks like a racing car driver - no one else does, really.

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