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DRIVEN

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.”

Film ***

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.

Video ****

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.

Audio ****

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.

Features ***1/2

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 video game.

Summary:

A movie made to entertaining and impress, no more and no less, Driven is a pure pleasure package of adrenaline rush. Kudos to both Harlin and Stallone for fashioning an impressive action dosage of a movie!