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Movie Review: DRIVEN


 by Mark Cipolloni
April 24, 2001

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Rating: out of 5 


A Warner Brothers release
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Estella Warren, Burt Reynolds, Kip Pardue, Gina Gershon, Til Schweiger
Rating: PG-13 Graphic scenes
Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance

Thanks to the folks at Nazareth Speedway, we were able to see a special sneak preview of the new CART movie DRIVEN. Complete with a pre-movie party and Mario Andretti as a special guest, over 100 special guests were treated to the night we have all been waiting for.

Think of it as a Rocky on wheels. However, whereas in Rocky, Stallone played the hero role, in DRIVEN  54-year-old Stallone is a member of an ensemble, playing mentor to a younger, hot shoe, played by former Yale football star Kip Purdue from Remember The Titans. 

For years Joe Tanto (Stallone) has tried to forget his mistakes, the blown opportunities, the wasted potential, not to mention the accident on the track that almost killed him and another racecar driver. But each day the pain and scars remind Joe of the once-promising racing career he threw away. When ruthless team owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) asks him if he wants his old job back, Joe jumps at the rare opportunity for a second chance. 

There’s only one catch: he has to help the rookie sensation Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue), who is falling from the top of the points chase because the pressure of the media and the racing is getting to him. It’s Joe’s one chance to get back on the track … but in the name of someone else’s victory.  Team owner Henry asks Tanto to do whatever it takes to help Bly win the championship, both on and off the track.

Mario Andretti addresses the pre-race crowd
Photo Credit: Jim Yeager

The movie uses both real and computer simulated crashes scenes, far more dramatic than you are likely to see at the race track.  But this is Hollywood, and action is what people come to see. Driven is not just about guys driving fast though, it's as much about people who drive fast cars for a living and their everyday trials and tribulations.

Fierce competitors on the track, rising star Bly and defending champ Til Schweiger, who plays the ominous Beau Brandenburg, battle off the track for the same women, played by Estella Warren. Ironically, it's Tanto who settles the battle in favor of Brandenburg, but not before perhaps the wildest street chase scene (between Tanto and Bly) you will witness.

While the film has some similarities to Rocky, there are fundamental differences. Driven is not nearly as interwoven in the personal relationships, because this world is a different kind of world, of the racing fraternity versus the boxing milieu occupied by Philadelphia's Rocky Balboa. In comparison, DRIVEN is a circus. It's huge. Rocky, he lived in that neighborhood. That's his world. There's where he lived and died.  In Driven, the action leaps from city to city, taking place at nine races in five countries.  It's a bit faster paced, almost too fast paced for our taste.  Even though I am a race fan, I would have preferred to see more of the personal relationships played out a bit.

As for the computer generated crash scenes, most were pretty realistic, but some made us cringe for their lack of realism.  Overall, and enjoyable movie.  Our only real complaint, whereas NASCAR was mentioned repeatedly in Days of Thunder, there is no mention of CART anywhere in this film, so if CART thinks it will get any mileage out of this movie, it won't except from the hard-core race fans, or unless there is some sort of 30-second commercial before the film begins telling the viewers.  

Guess who drives this car?
Photo Credit: Jim Yeager

And that's too bad, because CART bent over backwards to help make this film a reality, opening their doors to the film-makers.  Warner Brothers is running ads galore on TV about the movie, but nary a word about CART.  As they say, the devils in the details, and the lack of the mention of CART in the movie could have been avoided during contract negotiations.  NASCAR's presence in Days of Thunder was prevalent, a prime example of NASCAR not missing anything when it comes to marketing their product.

The sound quality in the movie was awesome. There were times in some of the race scenes that you could swear you were at a race track and cars were all around you. CART's current engine package was well represented by the volume and high revving pitch which filled the theater. The reality added by this sound quality was so intense there were times that you could close your eyes and swear you could sense the smell of methanol and rubber burning.

One aspect of Champ Car racing that came across loud and clear was the carnival atmosphere of some of the bigger races with all the pomp and pageantry. Actual pre-race footage from Long Beach, Brazil, and Miami helped the filmmaker accurately capture the excitement, glamour and glitz many at-home race fans miss on any given Sunday.

Mario poses before entering the theater
Photo Credit: Keith Green

There was also a scene in the pits (I don't recall the actual race) where Andretti and Tracy are both exiting the pits and Tracy carrying much more speed clips the back of Michael's car as he exits his pit stall. I remember the incident well as it happened in real life, it was good to see that level of realism portrayed in the film.

This movie is suitable for almost all ages, despite the PG-13 rating.  Should you go see it?  As a race fan, most certainly.  Although those of us close to the sport may find some things a bit unrealistic, after a weak start, the movie turns out to be pretty entertaining.

Oh, and what does Mario like to eat while watching movies?  He said during the party, Raisinettes.  Sitting one row behind us, we turned just before the movie began to see Mario munching on a big box of those chocolate covered morsels.

Also in attendance, Jeff Andretti, the next racing Andretti (Marco, son of Michael), Mario's lovely wife, Michael Andretti's wife Leslie, and a whole host of Andretti family and friends.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article


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