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Directed By: Renny Harlin Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Kip Pardue, Til Schweiger, Burt Reynolds, Stacy Edwards, Estela Warren, Gina Gershon, Robert Sean Leomard, Brent Briscoe, Cristian de la Fuente Written By: Sylvester Stallone Rated: PG-13 (Language) Running Time: 107 Min.

From Sylvester Stallone and Renny Harlin comes this actionfest about the Indy Grand Prix championship. Formula racing meets formula filmmaking as Sly and the guys give us fast cars, faster women, and plenty of stock Hollywood cliche'. All of this would be just fine, if only they had given us a decent plot to go with it!
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Ever wonder how to make a hit movie? Harlin and Stallone, both of whom have successful track records at the box office, seem to think it's the following formula: Start with a montage, follow that with a big action sequence, then a dramatic or romantic scene, back to another montage, and repeat for two hours. Make sure those dramatic scenes each feature a different character, and that they don't last for more than a few minutes. When in doubt, just throw in an extra montage to sell the soundtrack. Speaking of the soundtrack, be sure to play it loud during any romantic scenes, so no one can tell how bad the dialogue is. From opening lap to checkered flag, Driven is on terminal cruise control, with the audience being the only loser.

As for plotline, it's nothing anyone hasn't seen before. Sly is the old pro, brought out of retirement to help the young rookie. Sly's known the highs and lows of racing, but the rookie is slow to trust him. Did I mention the rookie has heart? Yes, he knows that racing is important, but that it can't compare to the love of a good woman. Our hero's nemesis is another racer, a proven winner who is now going through a slump. To him, winning is everything. Along for the ride is yet another racer, easygoing with no ill will to bear toward anyone. Can you guess what happens to this likeable fellow? Also thrown in are an ex-wife, an indecisive girlfriend, various generic greasemonkeys, and team owner Burt Reynolds. To top it off, everyone seems to have something to prove, both to others and to themselves. The only person to retain his dignity throughout the film turns out to be Bert, and if that doesn't tell you something's extremely wrong here, then you just haven't been paying attention.

I find myself in the very awkward position of defending the film most similar to Driven, which is Days of Thunder. I figure people who enjoy auto racing are the ones most likely to want to see Driven, and are also the most likely to be familiar with Days of Thunder. For those racing fans out there, let me say that Days of Thunder is superior to Driven in every aspect. Now, I realize that Days of Thunder was just Top Gun on wheels, as well as an incredible ego yank-a-thon for Tom Cruise, but the simple fact is that it still beats Driven by a mile. The action is better, the racing scenes are better, the story stolen from Top Gun is better and more believable, and even the acting is a cut above anything seen in Sylvester Stallone's Indy car opus.

Also, Driven is yet another example that visual effects do not a good movie make. The crash scenes are shot as close up as possible, with quick edits that are often more disorienting than exciting. Had no one told Renny Harlin that crashes always look more spectacular from a distance? Apparently not. No one must have told him that computer generated images shouldn't look exactly like computer generated images either, since every special effect stands out as clearly as Sly's little bobbing head from the racing cockpit he'd never actually be able to fit himself into.

So, at the last pit stop, the final lap, the end of the season, when every race has been run, when I can't think of any more racing metaphors, Driven can be summed up in one word. Bad.

Allen J Vestal

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