Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reyonlds, Kip Pardue,
Til Schweiger, Gina Gershon, Estella Warren
Director: Renny Harlin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: September 18, 2001
“Everybody falls down. It’s
how fast you get up that counts.”
The movies that Renny Harlin makes are pretty much
like attractions at an amusement park, they exist to give you a rush and a jolt
of fun, no more and no less. The director has harbored an impressive track
record that includes such high quality action fare like Die Hard 2,
Cliffhanger, and Deep Blue Sea, and now the adrenaline laced thrill
machine, Driven, which pairs him up with Cliffhanger cohort
Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote the screenplay. The movie was surprisingly
ignored by big audiences and slammed by most critics, who have slammed many of
Harlin’s movies in the past. Hopefully on DVD, Driven can be discovered
and experienced by those seeking a pure adrenaline rush.
Set in the fast paced word of Formula 1 racing, the
movie uses a familiar formula; the veteran teaches the rookie the ropes and what
it means to win and feel victory. But the substance of Driven isn’t the
most distinctive part of the movie, the style and pacing is. The story concerns
the training of a successful rookie driven named Jimmy Bly, played by Kip Pardue
of Remember the Titans. Bly’s owner, Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds), brings
in old teammate Joe Tanto (Stallone) to help Jimmy both on and off the track.
Caught between Joe, his sudden new found fame, and his overly controlling
manager/brother Demille (Robert Sean Leonard), Jimmy is one step closer towards
self-destructing. Jimmy also has a bitter rival in his primary racing adversary,
Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger), whose heartbroken former flame (Estella
Warren) walks into Jimmy’s life to add another touch of distraction.
The racing scenes in Driven are done with an
exuberant touch of brilliance by Harlin and the team of visual and special
effects experts. The standout moment is a chase scene done with little effects
work, in which Tanto and Jimmy engage in a 195 mph high speed chase in race cars
through downtown Chicago. Another jaw dropping moment comes during a rainy race
in Germany, where a car slams into and skids alongside a wall, floats into the
air, and is then hit by an oncoming car and flies across the track into a huge
bursts of flames. Harlin uses some impressive camera tricks in this sequence,
capturing the maneuvering of the flying car, and the cars on the ground
simultaneously. The climatic race in the movie also includes a spectacularly
done crash sequence, in which multiple cars crash and drop to the ground faster
than raindrops to the ground.
Stallone’s screenplay is very well written, and is
reminiscent of his Rocky days. The story includes many characters, each
of whom go through a series of changes, and each become fully developed by the
end of the movie, particularly that of Tanto and Jimmy. And there couldn’t
have been a better director to pull this collage of race mayhem than Renny
Harlin. His visual style of the Formula 1 racing industry proves to be a sharp,
thrilling one. Harlin and Stallone make a triumphant team, and Driven
makes for a massively entertaining two hours.
Like I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, it’s
rare to find a bad transfer of any new release from Warner Bros. Warner turns in
yet another fantastic video transfer on their disc for Driven. Picture is
consistently clear and sharp, and complete with 100% vibrant color resolution.
The scenes of visual effects use, especially one particular crash scene,
which is presented in slow motion, stands out as perhaps the best single scene I
will see on any DVD this year.
This is an audio transfer for the history books.
Warner usually issues incredible transfers for action films, or movies that
include a large use of special effects, but the audio job on Driven is
one of pure digital brilliance. The race scenes alone demonstrate how powerful
this presentation is. In fact, I personally advise to everyone who buys this
disc to turn up his or her sound system full blast during each race scene.
Definitely, the best audio transfer thus far of 2001.
A terrific array of extras, including two
documentaries, “The Making of Driven” and “Conquering Speed Through Live
Action and Visual Effects”. Also included is a commentary by Renny Harlin,
deleted scenes with optional commentary by Sylvester Stallone. Also included is
a trailer for the movie, as well as an advertisement for an upcoming Driven