Plot: What’s it about?
Renny Harlin may not be the best Director around, but he can certainly deliver action movies that appeal to a vast audience. Though I always seem to get him mixed up with Ridley Scott (sorry Ridley), I find that many of Harlin’s movies are among my favorites. The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine, Deep Blue Sea and The Long Kiss Goodnight are but a few of this director’s “hits” that I have watched over and over (yet Ford Fairlaine is conspicuously absent on DVD) and continue to get enjoyment out of. And we all know that he and writer/actor Sylvester Stallone collaborated on the Memorial Day hit of 1993, Cliffhanger. Stallone, as we all know, started his career as a writer, penning the Academy Award-Winning hit, Rocky. So it was inevitable…Stallone and Harlin are at it again, but this time they’re not in the mountains of Colorado, they’re on the speedways of racetracks the globe over. Is Sylvester Stallone finally taking himself out of the spotlight and giving it to some younger actors? Who knows, but the cast is good and with Harlin’s track record, it’s bound to be visually pleasing and will sound awesome!
Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) is a down and out race car driver, much like his character of Rocky Balboa. He has been to “the show” as they put it in “Bull Durham” and had it all, but has since fallen and is now doing what he loves…nothing. But in the present world of race car driving, one man is on top. That man is Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger). Beau has won tons of races and is currently the man on top. But the person threatening Beau’s record is a newcomer by the name of Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue). Jimmy is a rookie who has managed to win a few races and under the “management” of his older brother, DeMille Bly (Robert “O Captain, My Captain” Sean Leonard) they’re out to not only win every race, but clean up financially in the process. Now I’m not too familiar with the world of race car driving, but it seems that the racers are the low men on the totem pole when it comes to just about everything. Take Jimmy, for example…Jimmy wins, he’s in the public eye and has almost everything he can want. But Jimmy doesn’t have that killer instinct. The killer instinct is something that Joe Tanto has in spades. So it’s when Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) comes a calling that the two are introduced. For reasons unknown, Carl is in a wheelchair (we assume it’s an old auto racing accident), but they never really go to deep into his past (note: this movie doesn’t go too deep on many levels). So it’s up to Tanto to teach Jimmy the basics and to even make sure that he wins a few races, even if it means playing dirty.
The plot is predictable, but as with most all of Harlin’s movies, it’s fun getting to the end. Stallone’s ex-wife, played to bitchy perfection is married to fellow race car college Memo Morento (Cristian de la Fuente). And Beau’s better half is played by ex-Swimsuit model, Estella Warren. Warren has a tinge of talent as an actress, but it’s amazing how she seems to end up in a swimsuit during the course of this movie (not that I’m complaining). So if it’s plot you’re after, you can tune out after the first half hour, but if it’s action, gratuitous shots of busty women in and out of shorts and a good time, then you might give “Driven” a few laps on your DVD player. For me, it was fun to watch, and I will probably watch it again, as per most of Harlin’s films. But when it comes to the collaboration between Stallone and Harlin—I’ll take Cliffhanger in a landslide.
Video: How does it look?
Being a new movie to DVD, we can expect that it will look great. Especially coming from the folks at Warner Brothers. It does. The visual presentation of this movie is a true testament to what DVD can do for a movie, even one like this. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image has a few faults, noticeably a few moments of edge enhancement and some muted places, but for the most part it looks spectacular. The races, of which there are a lot, look great. The cars, sporting their colorful sponsors and glossy paint jobs seem to almost race off the screen. A great deal of the movie is done in CGI which gives the movie an almost 3-D look to it. Flesh tones look natural, but may seem to be a bit over saturated when it comes to the nighttime shots. The detail is right on target as is the black level. Put it this way, it’s another great way to pause and see how good Estella Warren looks in a swimsuit. Not reference quality, but no major complaints here…
Audio: How does it sound?
I’ve said it before and I’ll certainly say it again…Renny Harlin’s movies sound awesome. Cutthroat Island, Deep Blue Sea and Driven are three examples of how good a movie on a home theater can sound as good (or in some cases, better) than they did in the theater. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack takes full advantage of all the channels and delivers on each occasion. An IMAX film by the name of Super Speedway (released a few years ago) once had the edge for demo quality for home theater. The high pitched squealing of tires and race car engines seem to make your speakers come alive. This is the case for Driven. Imagine being inside the car…it sounds corny, but that’s how it felt when I watched this movie. Literally every base is covered here. The dialogue sounds clear and the surround effects (of which there are a LOT) make every effort to bring you into this movie and they succeed. Truly, when watching Driven, this is what you can show your friends and say “Listen to this”…
Supplements: What are the extras?
Renny Harlin is also one of the directors who uses the advantages of DVD to his own. In other words, his discs are usually loaded with features. Driven is no exception, featuring a commentary and over 45 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary by Sylvester Stallone. The commentary track for the movie is like most of Harlin’s others, once you get past his accent you can see that he had a clear scope for the movie, it just never seemed to develop. His commentaries are full of information and are generally worth a listen. This is no exception. Two featurettes (labeled Documentaries on the box) are included, including “The Making of Driven” which is another stock interview with the actors and showing some of the key scenes and sequences from the movie. We’ve become so spoiled by the supplements on DVD’s now a days, it seems that if they weren’t included, we’d bitch and when they are, we say it’s the “same old, same old”. Oh well…Also included is “Conquering speed through live action and visual effects”. This is a featurette that tells how the CGI was used to make the movie more realistic. Odd, since it seemed to make the movie a bit more fake to me, but once you find out how much of the movie was computer-generated, you’ll be amazed. A theatrical trailer is also included as well as some deleted scenes with screenwriter/actor/producer, Sylvester Stallone. I’ll let these speak for themselves…Overall, Driven is what you might expect. Go in with your expectations low and you’ll like it, but Cliffhanger is a much better movie, even though the subject matter is totally different. Have fun watching it and all will be well.