Stallone Month: Driven

What a putrid, rotten mess of a movie. I was really hoping before I sat down to watch this movie for Stallone Month that it was not as bad as I remembered — that time had distorted what I recalled being one of the worst films I have ever seen. As it turned out, this memory was a reliable one. I hate this movie. I haven’t hated a movie this much since I reviewed Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave. In fact, this movie joins the short list of films I absolutely despise.

Driven, from 2001, was a passion project from Sylvester Stallone. Apparently he had been doing extensive research on the sport of motor racing while working on draft after draft of this film’s screenplay, and I can’t see any evidence of that. There are objects in this film that resemble racecars and people dressed up as racecar drivers, but that is where similarities with the actual sport end. Sly took the look and feel of a sport and jettisoned all else in order to shove it into a stupid and flimsy narrative. Oh, and lest Sly take all the blame, this flick was directed by Renny Harlin, and features some staggeringly inept performances from Sly, Burt Reynolds, Gina Gershon, and someone named Kip Pardue.

Sly plays Joe Tanto, a Champ Car driver who has been hired by team owner Carl Henry (Reynolds) to back up rookie driver Jimmy Bly (Pardue), who is a contender for the championship. Gina Gershon plays Joe’s ex-wife, whose entire contribution to the plot is walking past Joe in a garage and insulting him. Robert Sean Leonard also appears as Jimmy’s brother/agent. His contribution to the plot seems to be to verbally abuse Jimmy and make sure every person in the audience hates him for it. Gershon and Leonard play a pair of the most vile and useless characters to appear in a film. They are the Hollywood equivalent of migraine headaches, and one can partly blame Sly for them, as it was his writing that oozed like tar from their mouths.

I managed, much to my surprise, to get through this entire film, but I did check out at times. I’d look up and it would still be playing. Yet another scene in a nightclub. Yet another heated argument in the paddock. Yet another scene with Leonard being a dick. Yet another unexciting racing scene. The opening scene of the film is indistinguishable from the last and all the mush in between. It’s a film that removes all passion from its drama, all art from filmmaking, and, most incredibly, speed from motor racing.

I’m not going to bother doing the research, but I would not be shocked to learn this is the worst-rated film for everyone listed in the credits. Do not watch Driven. It is far worse than Alien: Resurrection.