- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

Sylvester Stallone supposedly devoted several years of research to "Driven," but the schematic and superficial condition of the characters and conflicts suggests that he might never have progressed beyond elementary notes and brainstorming. Mr. Stallones screenplay also droops noticeably as a showcase for the author, betraying a melancholy resignation to assume guest-star status.

"Driven" pretends to examine rivalries during the final half of the annual tour of the Championship Auto Racing Team. Given Hollywoods cliched reliance on the terms "plot-driven" and "character-driven" to differentiate screenplays, its almost witty that Mr. Stallones movie is pretty much driver-driven or stunt-driver-driven. Mr. Stallone entrusted the directing to the heavy hand of Renny Harlin.
An abundance of second-unit footage was lavished on background documentation and atmosphere at authentic races or on set-piece thrill sequences, meant to simulate the sensations of being behind the wheel of a racing car on distinctive courses. These range from a track in Toronto to the night streets of Chicago to a rain-soaked location in Germany to the Belle Isle suburb of Detroit.
Curiously, only two rivals are ever in contention: Til Schweiger as a German star called Beau Brandenburg and Kip Pardue as an American challenger called Jimmy Bly, who always looks as if hes five seconds away from a crying jag and nervous breakdown. Mr. Schweigers character shelves a steady trophy girlfriend called Sophia (Estella Warren) at the outset to concentrate on his championship quest. She rebounds, in a chaste way, to Mr. Pardues character, who seems chronically panic-stricken and wants only an attractive girl to idolize. Fearing that Jimmy may not have enough edge to edge Beau in the seasons last 10 races, owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds in a wheelchair) summons Mr. Stallones soft-spoken character, Joe Tanto, out of retirement to mentor the rookie.
Joe, were led to believe, was once the hotshot of all hotshots. His career was cut short in ways that remain hazy, although they had something to do with almost costing Beau his life.
Evidently, Joe also lost a trophy wife named Cathy, now married to Carls backup driver, a cheerful hunk called Memo Moreno. Memo is so cheerful that he doesnt mind when Carl awards his backup slot to Joe. Cathy, played by the sexy Gina Gershon, does mind.
Memo is embodied by the instantly adorable Chilean actor Cristian de la Fuente, so moviegoers responding to mere glamour and star presence may be forgiven for thinking that Cathy and Memo deserve a lot more limelight than "Driven" beams their way.
Poor Mr. Pardue is overshadowed by just about everyone except the now marginal and apologetic Mr. Stallone.
"Driven" offers some gratuitous thrills courtesy of the stunt and special effects units, although the frequency with which collisions are rendered harmless suggests a certain lightheaded disregard for bodily injury. Mr. Pardue, for example, emerges unscathed from a wall collision that is bound to evoke the recent Dale Earnhardt fatality to many spectators. Several cars get airborne to heights that seem to defy credibility. A crash at the German site appears to portend total pulverization for one unfortunate driver; then its embroidered for additional death threats by drowning and incineration. All false alarms, as it turns out.
My favorite dopey moment has Mr. Reynolds gruffly insisting that Mr. Pardue jump up and down 10 times to prove that his recently injured leg or foot is in adequate condition to drive again. Perhaps movie people who invent such impromptu tests should be required to bounce on their heads 10 times in rapid succession.

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