Driven (PG)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Renny Harlin; 'The Making of Driven'(15 mins); 'Conquering Speed Through Live Action and Visual Effects' (10 mins); Additional scenes with optional commentary by Sylvester Stallone (51 mins); Driven game trailer

SYLVESTER Stallone may have taken the chequered flag at the US Box Office when his `labour of love' racing movie, Driven, opened earlier this year; but that isn't really saying much. Even by the Italian Stallion's lowest standards, this is bad.

Set in the world of CART racing (the US equivalent of Formula One), Driven is little more than a car crash of a movie, the kind that, while spectacular in places, may ultimately be damaging to your health.

Directed by Renny (Cliffhanger) Harlin, and starring the likes of Kip Pardue, Til Schweiger, Gina (Showgirls) Gershon and Estella (Planet of the Apes) Warren, Stallone's latest is a cliche-driven mess, enlivened only by its set pieces and the sheer stupidity of its by-the-numbers characters. A colleague even described it as "the best worst film he had ever seen''!

Plot-wise, the movie stalls on the grid. Stallone is former racing legend Joe Tanto, a semi-retired, angst-ridden has-been whose final race resulted in a tragic accident which nearly cost the lives of himself and anther driver. However, Tanto is given `one last shot' by Burt Reynolds's seasoned car owner, Carl Henry, in return for coaching his promising new driver (Pardue's Jimmy Bly) to his first world championship.

But Bly is something of a wild card; mentally unstable and lacking the competitive edge to mix it with reigning supremo Beau Brandenburg (Schweiger) at the very highest level. Added to Tanto's problems is a bitter ex-wife (Gershon), now married to his replacement; a dogged journalist (Stacy Edwards), who is using him to expose the male-dominated racing scene; Bly's egotistical manager/brother (sneeringly played to maximum pantomime effect by Robert Sean Leonard); and Estella Warren's curvy ``distraction'', who is torn between the affections of the main two track rivals.

The best that can be said about the movie is that Stallone takes a back seat to much of the comedy on show (opting to take the sage-like approach to the race track), and emerges from the wreckage unscathed. But the bland likes of Schweiger and Pardue, in particular, make the off-track sub-plots pretty tedious to say the least. Over-acting honours go to Gershon (an actress who managed to shine in Showgirls, no less), while Reynolds (assuming the Frank Williams wheelchair-bound guise) is simply laughable as the unscrupulous boss.

On track, Harlin directs the races with customary gusto (he helmed Die Hard II and The Long Kiss Goodnight), but even the crashes are OTT, while much of the action plays to formula. And if semi-clad, track-side girls are your thing (and let's face it, who isn't turned on?) then there is mileage to be had from Harlin's capacity for lingering over them - but it is small reward for the tedium throughout.

Oh, there is a nifty, but totally illogical, street race which could be described as the high point of the movie, but the final, `will he or won't he' duel really is the pits - which, coincidentally enough, is how best to describe the majority of the proceedings.

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