Phil's Review of Driven
There aren't many films about Champ Car (CART) racing or F1 now I think about it (if any), we did have NASCAR in 'Days of Thunder' but that's about it really I think. But here we have this slick offering from Renny Harlin and starring Stallone...yep.
Lets not beat around the bush here, this is basically 'Top Gun' for racing cars. The plot is completely as you would expect from start to finish. It follows a young hot rod driver trying to win races and gain the trust of his managers and backers whilst juggling friendships and a romance with another drivers bird. Naturally this all leads to problems which affect his racing so he has to battle his inner demons, the press, the spotlight, the fame, family etc...all in time for the big world championship final. Gee I hope he can do it.
So yes everything has that typical Tony Scott/Bay/Bruckheimer type gloss which we've come to expect in films like this. Lots of fancy camera angles shooting very fast cars so they look ice cool, girls in tight skimpy outfits, the lifestyles of rich spoilt drivers, plenty of shades wearing, lots of petrol head lingo, dangerous slow motion accidents and all accompanied by a rip roaring soundtrack just in case you forget this is suppose to be ultra cool.
Predictable plot aside the film isn't all that bad really, the racing on show, I thought, was pretty sweet to be honest and I'm no F1 fan lets get that straight. These types of cars have no visual interest for me but if you try to fantasize real hard this could almost be pod racing in 'Star Wars' hehe. It appears that real footage has been interwoven throughout the film (effectively) but there is also a lot of real stunt work and race action which does work well in my opinion.
Most of the crashes did seem really good to me and quite impressive, and from what I've seen on real footage they are accurate looking too. Massive gas tank explosions, clouds of flames and car debris showering down everywhere, I liked it and it looked cool I gotta admit. Not all of the race sequences were that good of course but a rain soaked race was nicely done showing a drivers pov from inside his helmet as the rain hits his visor.
The best sequence is also the stupidest one, it involves the young hot rod driver throwing a tantrum and running off in a brand new car, Stallone chases after him in another. The catch...they are chasing each other on regular street sections, downtown Chicago. Of course this is absolutely ridiculous and probably impossible due to traffic, people and road conditions but I can't deny its a great adrenaline rush. The fact they actually seem to use real Champ cars on street sections makes for a glorious 'Fast n Furious' type moment which puts a grin on your face. Yeah you can see they aren't going as fast as the engine roar makes out but it just looks n sounds awesome! guilty pleasure moment right there.
Aside from the decent racing the rest is standard dribble involving the young hot rod constantly arguing with rich team owner Burt Reynolds, German rival Til Schweiger (who's character name is 'Brandenburg' just in case you forget he's German), his bit of blonde fluff girlfriend and his Jedi Master-like trainer Stallone. As you would expect in the world of rich racers there is lots of partying, dinners, grand openings, double cross, jealousy, rivalry, my car is better than your car etc...
Add to this all the regular Hollywood emotional crap like the young hot rod overcoming his weaknesses, the guru like trainer who is actually the best driver in the world ever!, girlfriend wars, a near fatal accident, the hard ass team owner who has a change of heart at the end and of course the HUGELY stereotypical big race finale. Surely you know what will happen right?.
Its all about the visuals and for me it worked, the film looks great, sounds great and makes you wanna jump into your car and drive like a maniac. I can see how it may have disappointed people wanting a really good sensible F1/Champ Car flick. Its a bit of a cluster fudge really, Harlin has clearly gone for realism but can't help himself by adding total nonsense moments that break that reality. So end of the day in terms of a realistic racing flick its touch and go, in terms of a fun rollercoaster flick its not too bad and should have you smiling, obvious nasty shabby CGI moments aside that is.
The film was a flop upon release but I kinda like it for what its worth. Its a race car film and it delivers in that aspect so job done really.