Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:57 - Released 4/27/01

Although the press material for Renny Harlin's Driven lists Sylvester Stallone and Burt Reynolds as its two main players, the actual star is the relatively unknown Kip Pardue. Stallone, who also wrote the film, plays opposite Pardue in a mentor/ protegé scenario involving Formula 1 racecar drivers, while Reynolds is really just a villainous side character, one of the many stereotyped cardboard cutouts in this attrociously testosterone-soaked script. While the film offers lots of cool racing footage that will please fans of that sport, the story labors under false pretenses most of the time, with a sickeningly sweet love story and the kind of sports-related heroics we have come to expect from Stallone.

Pardue plays Jimmy Blye, an up-and-coming racer who appears out of nowhere to challenge longtime world champion Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger). Blye's physically disabled coach, extreme hardass Carl Henry (Reynolds), and his brother/manager, extreme jerk Demille Blye (Robert Sean Leonard), both look at the kid as their meal ticket and treat him as such, forcing him into regular press conferences and autograph signings. "You'll thank me in 5 years when you're a brand name," Demille quips. But when Blye begins to falter and loses a race to Brandenburg (gasp), Carl decides he needs an older, more experienced racer on his team to guide him back to the front. He calls former legend Joe Tanto (Stallone) out of retirement to save the day, and Joe is soon racing alongside Blye, advising him how to beat Brandenburg, who happens to be his old nemesis. Meanwhile, Brandenburg dumps his longtime girlfriend Sophia (Estella Warren), citing her as a "distraction" to his technique. Jimmy apparently sees a need for just such a distraction in his life, and quickly catches her on the rebound. So begins a constant alternation between racing sequences where Blye, Brandenburg, and Tanto might as well be the only cars on the track, and love-triangle scenes between Sophia and her two hunky boyfriends. Also present is Tanto's bitchy ex-wife (Gina Gershon), who is currently married to another member of Blye's team (Cristián de la Fuente).

There's not much to this movie if you're not into racing. If you are, you'll enjoy the track sequences but probably not care much for the romantic angle since it involves pretentious, sappy love scenes and ridiculously stupid dialogue. The actors are not required to do much except act tough (guys) or act girly (girls). The film does some impressive globe-trotting, taking us on a tour of the professional racing circuit through Chicago, Toronto, Japan, Germany, and Detroit, and includes a thrilling if unlikely impromptu Formula 1 race through the busy city streets of Chicago. But I would think racing fans would do better just to rent a video of the real thing than sit through all this schlop. **

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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