posted by Trevor on 1/03/03
Unlike the masses of self-proclaimed elitist movie snobs, I think there is no higher form of artistic achievement in cinema than the films produced by the great Jerry Bruckheimer (with or without the late Don Simpson). Flashdance... Bad Boys... The Rock... Armageddon... Gone In 60 Seconds... Like 9/11 American flag stickers on the back bumpers of BMW's, everything Bruckheimer touches turns into a grand display of American dick-waving at its absolute finest. Time and time again, he dips into his rock and roll well of flash and style over coherence and substance and comes up with countless crowd-pleasing but ultimately forgettable winners. It's the simple high concept formula of:
1. Coming up with a plot that can be summed up in a fifteen-second spot on TV.
2. Casting fresh young actors offset by esteemed and established veterans in
fun to play but cliche roles.
3. Whipping up a mishmash of comedy, intense violence, and sappy
sentimentality into a mighty brew that kills enough brain cells to leave you
drooling and happy.
The problem with Driven is that instead of being under the dutiful eye of Sir Bruckheimer (I just knighted him in my imaginary kingdom. Play time is fun time!), it falls into the less able hands of Renny Harlin. That's not to say that Harlin hasn't produced some competent actioners (Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2) or even Bruckheimer-esque, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-style time killers (Deep Blue Sea, The Long Kiss Goodnight) but an action movie visionary he's not.
To sum up my feelings as an SAT test question answer:
Renny Harlin is to Jerry Bruckheimer as Shannon Tweed is to Meryl Streep.
This is exactly where the troubles lies. In this film, the hip cast and stylish clothing are sadly nowhere in sight. Instead of having a nonsensical but enjoyable script hammered out by an elite group of 5 to 30 of Hollywood's best and brightest upcoming screenwriters, we are stuck with the incoherent plotlines and dated dialogue of Sylvester Stallone.
Basically, all we really get for our money is unneeded "MTV-style" editing, disorienting close-ups, and Formula One race cars exploding into millions and millions of pieces while flying hundreds of miles through the air.
Pretend you have a Matchbox car. Now take that car and heave it as high and as far as you possibly can. At the height of your throw, imagine that it explodes like an atom bomb. Now imagine each of the pieces of debris flying off of the car (tires, bumpers, etc.) suddenly exploding with twice as much power as the first explosion. While you feel the skin melting off your face from these explosions, pretend to feel yourself actually explode. Now imagine each of your body parts systematically exploding as they are launched away from your original bodily station. That's pretty much how every racing scene in this movie feels... minus the overt homoerotic tension between drivers.
That being said, don't fall into the false trap of believing this is just a movie about flying automobile wreckage bursting into flames... for this fine flick is also about CGI effects (Want to see a racing scene influenced by The Matrix?!), the joy of visiting other countries (France = berets waving the white flag at croissants while the Pink Panther theme plays, Germany = cut concentration camp scenes from Schindler's List shown very, very efficiently, Australia = Yahoo Serious and Paul Hogan fighting a wallaby to the death with their fleet of ninja koala bear assassins, etc.), product placement (see below), and empty relationships between boatloads of characters without any established motivation for any of their actions.
The essential plotline of Driven pretty much parallels that of Rocky V minus the kickass street fight at the film's close. Joe Tanto (Stallone) is the grizzled, veteran racer who is down on his luck and questioning his place in life. Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) is the brash, mop-headed upstart with endless talent and promise yet he lacks the needed drive to reach the top (Tagline: Are You Driven?). Of course, in the end, his palms are sweaty... knees weak... arms are heavy. There's vomit on his sweater already. Mom's spaghetti.
The music. The moment. You better believe Kip Pardue owned it. Steve McQueen had nothing on Kip as he raced his way to victory and our hearts... presumably. Honestly, I kind of tuned out at the end there. Just pretend I really cried hard when they burned Kip's childhood dune buggy, Rosebud. Also, assume that I already knew that Stallone was Keyser Soze all along. Lastly, it's been related to me that only I can see the Formula One racing in Driven. Turns out this is mainly because they are all actually spooky GHOOOOOST cars driven by Bruce Willis!
A semi-comprehensive list of the products Driven wants you accessorize and/or better your life with: FedEx, Pioneer, K-Mart, Panasonic, Quaker State, Simpson, Sparco, Boss, Ford, Target, Digital DNA, Arai, Gillette, Worldcom, Timex, Hollywood, J. Bly, Hawaiian Tropic, Molson, PacWest, Yokohama, Sonax, Energizer, Nextel, Winfield, Havoline, Miller Lite, Tide, Visa, Firestone, Toyota, Dodge, Player's, Fuji Film, ESPN, Budweiser, Kool, Bosch, Pennzoil, Coca-Cola, Robic, Pepsi, Cheerios, Motorola.
View The Movie's Casting Also-Rans:
Burt Reynolds as Kip Pardue's rich benefactor, Carl Henry: If Cannonball Run, Smokey And The Bandit, and his turn as a NASCAR racer in Stroker Ace are any indication, Burt really knows his way around tight pants, fast cars, and mustaches. In this movie, he also learns all about what it's like to be confined to a wheelchair while getting next to no screen time. Upon Driven's release, Christopher Reeves was quoted as saying, "I could play... *inhales deeply through respirator*... that role!" before he magically fell off of another horse.
Til Schweiger as Beau Brandenburg: This is the evil archenemy of Kip Pardue. We know he's evil because he has a German accent and is strange-looking. He also wins the vast majority of the races in this movie which is decidedly wrong because he's not American. USA! USA! USA!
Gina Gershon as Cathy Heguy: Gina Gershon plays the sassy ex-wife of Sylvester... but really that's neither here nor there in my humble opinion. The real purpose Gina serves in any film she's in is to ask the deep philosophical question of... "Dude, would you fuck her?!"... to any man watching. Admittedly, Ms. Gershon has an odd, swarthy, gypsy sort of allure despite her hideously man-ish shoulders and near canine countenance. However, I think you'd have to check my alcohol level for blood before I'd break her off a piece of my orgasmic meat stalk of endless satisfaction... However, on a dare, I'd be totally game. Especially if it's a triple dog dare! DARES TOTALLY RULE!
Estella Warren as Sophia Simone: Estella plays a lovelorn gal torn between Kip Pardue's "gee shucks!" earnest good looks/Midwestern charm and the mesmerizing, Svengali-like, German charisma of the movie's evil antithesis to American ideals, Til Schweiger. Sadly, the only reason Estella is in this or any movie is because of her freakishly large lips. They look like two old beanbag chairs wrestling in maple syrup... Luckily for us, they hide her overbite as only two wrestling, maple syrup-covered beanbag chairs can.
Mathematics Lessons Brought To You By Driven (Worth 3 Course Credits):
Lesson One: Conservatively, I'd estimate there's a completely jarring and unnecessary film cut every 2.5 seconds in Driven. This guess factors in the moving dramatic scenes where a shot might hold for upwards of ten seconds and the intense action scenes where a cut generally occurs every second or less. With this average it's safe to say that at least a couple of new character perspectives/camera angles would have occurred in the time it took you to read the last couple of sentences. Thus, with this kind estimate, the film averages around 24 cuts per minute. Assuming that this guess is somewhat accurate, over the course of the film's 117 minute running length, we would have seen an estimated 2808 cuts. How I can still mentally function with any degree of coherency is bloobble beegle zoob....5555. @to!!
Lesson Two: Needless and endless rapid cutting aside, Renny Harlin seems to have a severely pornographic fetish of making an actor's pores appear to big enough to stick your fist through on the small screen (... and large enough to comfortably take up residence in on the big screen. Hope Estella Warren's pores are rent-controlled!!!!). Meaning that, Driven sort of seems like a normal film that suddenly had each and every frame randomly enlarged under the 10X setting on a microscope. A typical scene resembles this:
A giant bobbing chin with Sylvester Stallone's voice starts talking about racing as not being just a simple game. He is answered by the voice of Kip Pardue with the kind of force and power that only a button on a sweater can muster. After this impassioned tirade by Kip's disembodied voice as a button, we see part of a left foot stomping away in anger while mumbling curses about how the button's youthful naivety will get him killed on the racetrack. End scene.
With this in mind, I'd venture to guess that around 60% of the film is shot in an extreme close-up of the actors. Hence, this gives us footage for a little over 70 graphic minutes of talking nasal hairs and razor burns. Pain, Balboa. Paaaaain.
Lesson Three: Driven cost 72 million to make and grossed the dismal sum of 32 million domestically. Being that the studio only takes home half of the gross and probably spent an extra 10 to 20 million in promotion (print ads, TV ads, trailers, etc.), Driven was probably still around 70 million in the red upon the end of its American theatrical run. At my current rate of pay, it'd take me 3500 years to make sure the studio would actually break even on this Stallone epic. It'd take my girlfriend around 2000 years to bring this flick back to black. Combined it would take us 1273 years to bring Driven back to the point of being profitable. Methuselah only lived to be 969 years old.
Bonus Extra Credit Question: If Sylvester Stallone leaves Chicago traveling at 198 miles an hour in his Mach One with Chim Chim and Spridle in the trunk, how long will it take for him to reach his archrival/brother (Shhh. The family relation is unknown to Sly!) Racer X's home in Buffalo? Factor in wind resistance, the vehicle's general viscosity (???), and the fact that I let
out some of the air in one of the Mach One's rear tires before he left. Show your work for full credit.
Key Scenes And/Or Reasons To Own The DVD:
1. Sylvester Stallone's Commentary On The "Deleted Scenes": The "deleted scenes" on the DVD are "deleted scenes" in name only. They are really just long, extended versions of scenes from the movie. That is all well and good except that I can't figure out how any of the scenes were actually extended in any way. I'm sure they added a few frames of Stallone raising his greasy eyebrows with dramatic fervor or perhaps a shot of another racecar blowing up like its chassis was made out of C4 and detonators on a road solely paved with sticks of dynamite and land mines. Much like the movie itself, the entertainment value of this extra hour of bonus footage is negligible at best.
The real reason to partake of this section of the DVD is the commentary Sylvester Stallone bestows upon us. Like any public appearance Michael Jackson deigns to make, this is an enjoyable curiosity of the highest order. As the scenes play, Stallone repeats dialogue that he's particular proud of in his screenplay... baring an uneasy parallel to Johnny Depp's performance of Ed Wood. One bit he was particularly enamored with was his use of the phrase "dyslexic in love" in an argument between Sly and his lady friend in the film. This makes me think that Stallone might be "retarded in life". YO ADRIAN!
Best of all, Stallone tries to razzle dazzle us with how intelligent he is. This obviously comes off about as well as a reading of the Bible by Chris Kattan ($19.99! In stores now! On CD or tape!). His herky jerky, mumbly voice can only get around about half the syllables he wants to verbally project. However, we do get to learn about endless story exposition, character
back-stories, and tons of other Driven fun facts that were never cinematically suggested outside of the confines of Sylvester Stallone's brain.
"See when... uh... the character Burt Reynolds plays is turning the wheels on his wheelchair. Well, he's moving them much like... uh... the wheel on a ship, isn't he? In fact, as you can see from the one picture on his desk... uh... that is faced completely away from the camera, he used to own a whole fleet of ships."
Philosophical ideas are expounded while similes, metaphors, and random stuttering hiccups of onomatopoeia slowly flow out of Stallone like an Italian Don King on downers. A better time is not to be had... unless you're like totally going to go somewhere... or something.
Can I please come with?!
2. Estella Warren's Synchronized Swimming While In Japan: After cutting to Ultraman fighting a building, Japanese citizens eating fluorescent squids in one bite with giant smiles plastered on their faces, and bizarre Rocky-based hentai, we are led to believe that this might be Japan. The movie further enforces this potentiality by showing an overhead shot of the pool's floor where a design similar to Japanese flag is readily visible. Anyway, while Kip Pardue looks on poolside, Estella Warren suddenly breaks into a spontaneous synchronized swimming routine that would have surely placed well in the Special Olympics. However, this isn't done to show us what we've been missing out on in the old sports world (Curling, anyone?). Nope, it's mainly done to show us close-up shots of Estella's vagina going in and out of the splashing water. This would generally be considered a good thing (Read: Wapwapwapwapwapwapwapwap. Absorbent tissues. Catholic guilt.) except that the close-up gives the general impression that Estella could have given birth to Hank Williams Jr. and all of his rowdy friends back on Monday night. Sorry, Estella. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not ready for some football even if it's a Monday night paaaartaaay.
In conclusion, although Driven wasn't graced by the Midas touch of Jerry Bruckheimer, it still has some redeeming value in my opinion. For one, it gave me something to write about. Thus, it kept me busy and out of trouble for a few hours where usually I would have been less busy and still out of trouble. More importantly, it allowed you to spend a few minutes reading something for free on the internet... which is much better than having to pay for something by a writer with some degree of competence. Lastly, it brings
me pleasure to think that for a brief period in time Driven was the center of our collective consciousness and universe. At least, I assume it was... but I don't want to make an "ass" out of "u" and "me".
I think Shakespeare said it best in Titus Andronicus when he said:
"The vow is made. Come, brother, take a head.
And in this hand the other I will bear"
Even then, bears were fucking hilarious! VROOM! VROOM! VROOM!