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Laramie Movie Scope:

Special effects lap field, while the plot is in the pits

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 2, 2001 -- "Driven" is a race car drama with plenty of action, but is saddled with a soap-opera plot. It should have been called "One Race to Drive," or the "The Young and the Driven." It has sibling rivalry, love triangles, a toxic ex-wife, a bitter old control freak, a washed up driver, and of course, bedside hospital scenes. All these sub plots buzz ineffectively around the perimeters of the action, which is fast, colorful and violent.

Written and produced by Sylvester Stallone of "Get Carter," who also plays the part of the washed up driver, Joe Tanto, the story centers around race car driver Jimmy Blye (played by Kip Pardue of "Remember the Titans"). Blye is a hotshot young driver who is falling apart at the seams. Team boss Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds of "Boogie Nights") brings Tanto onto the team to act as a mentor to Blye. Tanto replaces team member Memo Moreno (Cristián de la Fuente of TV's "Family Law"). Memo's girlfriend, Cathy (Gina Gershon of "Palmetto") gets mad at Tanto, when he replaces Memo. She just happens to be Tanto's ex-wife. Blye starts fooling around with the lovely Sophia Simone (Estella Warren who will be in "Planet of the Apes"), who is the girlfriend of his chief rival, champion driver Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger of "The Replacement Killers"). This makes Beau feel like pummeling Blye.

If those aren't enough sub-plots for you, there's also the matter of Tanto trying to dispell his unspecified inner demons. Then there's the seething history between Tanto and his bitter old control-freak, unscrupulous boss, Carl Henry. The problem with the plot is that very little of it has anything to do with race car driving, which is what the movie is supposed to be about. So, you watch some soap opera stuff for a while, then you have some racing, then you go back to the soap opera for a while, then back to racing.

Fortunately for race car fans (and we're talking real racing here with both right and left-hand turns, not that oval track stuff), there are some very good action scenes, accompanied by very loud racing sounds. There are some spectacular crashes, including cars flying way up in the air. One scene shows the unfortunate driver in his car, flying through the air, heading nose down toward the race track, about to be hit by oncoming traffic. In several scenes, we see race cars darting underneath other cars flying above the track. There's a "tunnel vision" kind of effect used in the film that really doesn't work well. For all the action and special effects and flying cars, there's really not much about real racing tactics in the movie. Some of the stunts, like one car on a team cutting in front of another in a "blocking" maneuver are not only dangerous but illegal. One blocking maneuver depicted in the film would probably result in a loss of a lap or suspension of the driver or team. In the film, race officials do nothing about it. One open-wheel race car fan called the movie "disappointing" after seeing it. He said "Grand Prix" is still the best movie made about this sport.

A tip of the hat to the special effects people, Tim Lidstone, Troy Rundle, Eric M. Beaver and Jeff Campbell, et al, the stunt crew, headed by C.J. Fidler, to cinematographer Mauro Fiore ("Get Carter") and to film editors Steve Gilson and Stuart Levy. The action and the look of the film are stunning. The music and soundtrack songs are also good. The actors do the best they can with the script, but there's no compelling drama here, just a lot of bickering and posturing. The story does, however, give the viewer an idea of the camaraderie among race car drivers and depicts the friendships that abound in the small world of racing.

Kip Pardue does a pretty good job of showing the anxiety of a guy who doesn't like all the glad handing, interviews and sucking up to sponsors that go with his job. Robert Sean Leonard of "Much Ado About Nothing" is pretty good as Demille Blye, Jimmy's "Type A," anxiety-causing, manager brother whose mom always liked second best. Estella Warren looks like she can act, as well as do those performance swimming skills she shows off in the film. Burt Reynolds does a good job with his role as the mean guy everybody loves to hate. He has one scene where he gets to emote a little and add some needed depth to his character. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)