Driven

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Driven

Getting two movies in one might sound like a good deal, but sometimes less is better. With Driven, a film divided against itself, director Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea) and screenwriter/star Sylvester Stallone prove this point. One side of Driven is an overstuffed racecar melodrama hamstrung by bad acting, worse dialogue, and more clichés than a halftime pep talk. The other is a superbly choreographed action film filled with exciting racing—and, inevitably, crashing—scenes. But seeing one means sitting through the other, which might prove more trouble than it's worth. It takes about half an hour, for instance, for Driven to clear its throat of Stallone's expository dialogue, which helpfully lays out the background and motivation for each member of the overabundant cast, stopping short only of flashing their high-school transcripts on the screen. "Your ex-wife's a helluva piece of work," opines Burt Reynolds, Stallone's wheelchair-bound driver turned manager, as they pass Gina Gershon. "Divorcing you, marrying another driver." Even scarier, early scenes threaten a retread of Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday, with Stallone and Reynolds guiding a pretty-boy newcomer (Kip Pardue) along the true path of masculinity, with plenty of scantily clad women thrown into the mix, lest anyone get the wrong idea. But those faults fade away pretty quickly once the open-wheel racing scenes arrive. One silly early sequence and a couple of questionable digital effects aside, Harlin has created a heavy handful of scenes sure to thrill anyone who values the union of camera, car, and cheesy techno music. When working at his best, as here, Harlin has few peers as an action director; he uses the better impulses of flash-and-cut, music-video-derived editing without obscuring the action itself. The coherence adds to the excitement, a lesson many of his contemporaries have failed to learn; Jerry Bruckheimer in particular should fire his stable of directors and sign Harlin to a lifetime contract. If only the racing scenes made up the whole film, instead of so much pouting, hand-wringing, and mentoring. As a coach, Stallone's character relies heavily on the use of spoons to plan strategy, but their impact into servings of chocolate mousse is considerably less impressive than collisions occurring elsewhere.