Film Reviews:


Driven

(Renny Harlin, US, 2001)


Or 'Drivel' if you are to believe racing enthusiasts and critics alike. I've been a fan of Formula 1 racing since Graham Hill was still alive and racing... that's Damon Hill's dad... you do remember Damon Hill don't you?... Whatever! Fortunately, for 99% of the global population, and like Stallone's Rocky (a film with which Driven shares a great deal), you need not be an enthusiast of the sport depicted to be entertained by watching it.

[Driven: tough guys]In fact, its better if you are not an enthusiast. For those who follow whichever form of motor racing will wince throughout at the technical, factual, etc. etc. inaccuracies, hell, half of it is total nonsense! (Classic example: when you are racing flat out, all you need to do to overtake the car in front is simply stamp on the accelerator more and suddenly the car finds more power and launches you ahead.) But that's not to say it isn't worth watching - provided you are in the correct frame of mind. Like Showgirls and Waterworld before it, Driven could never really be as bad as most critics would have you believe. Sure its trashy, no brainer Hollywood stuff, but it's better than the last big studio attempt, the truly dreadful Days of Thunder. And racing geeks will undoubtedly derive some pleasure in spotting the real-world similarities of an arrogant German champion who wears a red racing strip, or the hard nosed but wheelchair-bound team boss (as portrayed by a growling Burt Reynolds), etc., or spotting the many cameos of real racing drivers (Villeneurve, Alesi, Montoya, and so on).

Being a fan of F1, Driven as written by star Stallone, was originally intended (and is clearly scripted) to be set in the world of Formula 1, but when the brand rights couldn't be negotiated with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the setting was switched to the less glamorous but equally dynamic world of Champ Cars... yeah, right... doesn't really mean much outside of the US does it? The finished article is no less/no more believable for the switch and the soap opera dramatics off the track would be just as weary and hackneyed if they were set in a town in the north of England, or a farming community in Yorkshire, or in the East End of London.

One aspect of the real world that is actually captured quite well (if not in much depth) is the whole 'corporate' side of a big-money sport like F1. Scenes of racing drivers having to press the company man flesh, do photo shoots with sponsors, and attend countless dull 'personal appearance' events show how much of the personal charisma of those early daredevil drivers has largely been replaced by bland (if still talented) drones. For a very interesting contrast to this big-budget fluff, see Stallone at the start of his career in Death Race 2000, when he was not beyond running people over and killing them just for the fun of it. 5/10

Rob Dyer (February 2005)

See also:

Days of Thunder
Death Race 2000
Grand Prix
Le Mans

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