I caught this Sylvester Stallone Formula One race car flick on ESPN Classics last night. I remembered seeing it in theaters in 2001 and being mildly entertained. I also remember it being slaughtered by the critics at the time as they gleefully drove more nails into the coffin of Stallon’s career.
In digging up some of those old reviews on metacritic.com today, I can logically agree with most of the disparaging remarks, but when Roger Ebert (whose film criticism I greatly admire even if I don’t agree with him all the time) gives a mediocre film its highest review instead of eviscerating it, I figure there has to be some redeeming value – and there is.
In watching the film again last night, I did so with it in mind to compare it to Grand Prix and LeMans – arguably tow of the best car racing movies ever filmed – and Driven doesn’t come off badly. Sure the characterization is shallow, the resolution too feel-good-war-and –fuzzy, and okay, so some of the action in the racing scenes doesn’t make sense, but I still found it thoroughly entertaining as a whole.
Renny Harlin – who will always be my hero for directing his then wife (the gorgeous) Gena Davis in Cutthroat Island, the best pirate movie since Captain Blood (including the silly Pirates of the Caribbean films) – does a great job of keeping the action moving with pounding music, fast cuts, and handheld cameras without going over the line into the blurred, unable to comprehend the action scenes so popular today.
The acting is as good as the script by Stallone himself allows, which is to say competent. But that doesn’t matter . . . this is a film about Formula One – fast cars and lots of noise with its emotional heart on the track and in the crashes, crunchingly conceived and digitally brought off.
One action scene in particular ramps this film up to watchable status when the young racing phenom Stallone’s character is supposed to be mentoring cracks under the pressure of his rising star, he steals a race car from an auto show display in Chicago and hits 195 mph through the Loop with Stallone chasing him in another race car – this is cool stuff! The cars zip and buzz, scraping, slamming into things, and even slid under truck rigs in a blaze of sparks!
For my money, Driven is superior to Tom Cruise’s Days of Thunder, and I enjoyed the ride – critics be damned!