Driven (2001 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Renny Harlin|
|Screenplay by||Sylvester Stallone|
Franchise Pictures Champs Productions
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$54.7 million|
Driven is a 2001 American action drama film directed by Renny Harlin and starring Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote and produced. It centers on a young racing driver's effort to win the Champ Car World Series auto racing championship. Prior to production, Stallone was seen at many Formula One races, but he was unable to procure enough information about the category due to the secrecy with which teams protect their cars, so he decided to base the film on Champ Car.
Halfway through the (fictionalized) 2001 Champ Car season, rookie driver Jimmy Bly has already won 5 races. His brother/business manager Demille seems more concerned with working out endorsement deals and press engagements than racing, putting tremendous pressure upon Jimmy. His success has also drawn the ire of the reigning champion and series points leader Beau Brandenburg, who believes he's not doing as well as he should because of his fiancée Sophia becoming "a distraction". He breaks up the engagement and he regains his winning ways at Chicago Motor Speedway.
As Brandenburg returns to form, Bly's paraplegic team owner Carl Henry is concerned that Bly is making more driving errors. He sees parallels to his former driver and Champ Car Champion, Joe Tanto, whom he convinces to come out of retirement to mentor Jimmy. Joe agrees and is brought in to replace Jimmy's teammate, Memo Moreno. To complicate matters, Joe's ex-wife Cathy Heguy is now married to Memo, the driver that Joe replaced. Despite all this, Joe and Memo are still friends.
Joe's comeback race is extremely close, with Jimmy leading and Brandenburg a close second. Jimmy can't seem to pull away from him so Carl orders Joe to pit and holds him there until the leaders are about to come by, despite Joe's protests. At the last second, Joe leaves the pit just in time to block out Brandenburg, allowing Jimmy to win the race. Jimmy's brother/manager takes a dislike to Joe's mentoring, implying that Joe should just act as a blocker. After the race, Joe urges Brandenburg to reconcile with Sophia because she has started an illegal affair with Jimmy, which is causing him to further lose his form on the track, resulting in Jimmy crashing out in Japan.
At a party in Chicago, where the prototypes of next year's cars are being introduced, Brandenburg gives Sophia her ring back, apologizes for his behavior towards her, and they reconcile, much to Jimmy's disappointment. Sophia apologizes to Jimmy, but he is so angry, upset and furious that he takes one of the new cars and races it out of the convention center. Joe hops into another of the new cars and chases him down the streets of Chicago, eventually calming Jimmy down and bringing him back to his senses after they stop driving. In the coming race in Germany, Carl decides that bringing back Joe isn't getting the results he wants, so he reinstates Jimmy's original teammate Moreno while making Joe mentor Jimmy from the pit lane.
In the next race, it's another close one with Jimmy and Brandenburg fighting it out for first. Bly needs one more win to take the championship, and Moreno is instructed to block for Jimmy, and keep out of his way. Cathy gets on the radio and convinces Memo to go for the win, and, as a result, he collides with Bly in a horrific crash that sends him flying through the air and crashing into a lake on the far end of the course. Jimmy does a quick u-turn and drives his car to the lake and dives in after him. Brandenburg does the same and the two of them rescue Memo just as a burning tree having caught fire in the crash collapses into the burning car igniting the fuel on top of the water and it explodes. This event causes Brandenburg to warm up to Jimmy, soon telling him he's a good man and that he's sorry he didn't want to win the championship this way.
Carl, angered by Jimmy's decision to stop and rescue Moreno instead of fighting on for the championship, argues with Joe who was examining what's left of Memo's car. He decides to replace Jimmy with Brandenburg for the coming season and negotiates a deal with Jimmy's brother who will now represent Brandenburg. Demille tries to get Brandenburg to sign the new contract but he rips it up and Sophia punches Demille in the face for the way he treated her previously. With Memo now hospitalized, Joe is racing again as Jimmy's teammate. Initially, Jimmy was barred from competing due to a foot injury he sustained while rescuing Memo but Carl finally decides to clear him for the race after Jimmy passes Carl's strength test.
At the final race of the year in Detroit, Jimmy and Brandenburg are contenders for the championship. In the final laps, Joe has taken the lead but by avoiding an accident, goes flying through the air, landing safely but damaging his front suspension. He can no longer contend for the win and the two leaders pass him on the final lap. It's neck and neck coming down to the finish. Jimmy is starting to have a mental lapse, but then he hears Joe's words of wisdom and in a long slow motion sequence, we see Jimmy beating Brandenburg by just a few inches as Joe crosses in third while doing doughnuts in his now out of control car due to its damaged suspension breaking. Jimmy is the new champion and he, Tanto and Brandenburg, celebrate together on the podium drinking champagne.
Montoya, Gugelmin, and Blundell lent their car and helmet likeness to Brandenburg, Tanto and Bly respectively, Blundell's helmet being suitably changed from an "MB" logo to "JB".
Stallone had originally intended to make a film based on Formula One, attending the 1997 Italian Grand Prix and stating his goal in a press conference. However the plan to base the film on F1 was dropped.
Stallone said he wrote about 25 drafts.
And of those, about 20 were about this one man's journey, myself, through this film, and all his trials and tribulations. He'd fallen from a great height career-wise. He was a drunkard with all these problems and accidents because he and his wife Cathy, who's played by Gina Gershon, had this very tumultuous relationship. (Laughs) I'm giving you a little biographical hint here. And he just started to come apart. So he was brought back as kind of like how people should never be. It's like taking kids who are truants and then taking them to prison to see where they'll end up and scaring them straight. So I was brought back to basically prove to young Jimmy Bly how he should never be, as a bad example. And then the more we worked on it, it became the dark side, a little seedy, and I didn't know where the upside of it was ever going to be. So we began to reduce his role and make it more of an ensemble, so he's just there as a guy who did his job, wasn't very spectacular, would race like hell, sometimes he'd win, sometimes lose, but he had a certain work ethic code, that old school that could be applied to Jimmy. So that all made it more ensemble, and then in the editing we reduced it even more. I originally had a relationship going with the reporter. But that began to de-emphasise the other people, so we put that on the back burner... So we did shoot it but it we said, "Nah, it's not really flying." 
Stallone said the film was autobiographical in a lot of ways.
Racing's very much like the world of acting. You have your front runners and you have guys that are there for the long race, and you have other guys that block for other people, that are called supporting and character actors. It's all the same kind of situation. And you realize that you can't always be No. 1. You just can't be the guy in front all the time. So what you can do is lend support to, and help and nourish and encourage someone else. So it's like your experiences live on in someone else. If you can find some young actor and you can say, 'Listen, don't do this and don't do that and avoid this and that,' and share your experiences, and he does succeed, you can say, 'You know what, I kind of contributed to that.' As an actor did you have to learn you can't always be No.1 the hard way? (Laughs) Unfortuantely [sic] I did
Stallone says it took four years to get the finance to make the film.
The film was shot primarily in Toronto, Canada from July 6, 2000 until October 12, 2000 as well as at a variety of worldwide races which were sanctioned by CART. The German race was filmed at the Continental test track in Hanover rather than the Lausitzring oval.
According to director Harlin's commentary, his first cut was four hours long. Only 51 minutes of deleted footage was included as special feature on DVD.
Driven was a commercial failure, and grossed only $32 million against a $72 million budget. This poor performance ended a modestly successful recovery (with 1999 film Deep Blue Sea and 1996 film The Long Kiss Goodnight) from director Harlin's critical and financial failure Cutthroat Island. However, it was Stallone's first #1 opening film since Cop Land.
The film received generally negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 14% score based on 110 reviews, with an average rating of 3.6/10. Metacritic reports a 29 out of 100 rating based on 26 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
When Jay Leno appeared as a guest critic on the television show Ebert & Roeper, both Leno and Richard Roeper described Driven as the worst car film ever made, and a terrible depiction of auto racing. Stallone has said he regrets making the film.
The film earned seven nominations at the 22nd Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Couple (Reynolds and Stallone) and twice for Worst Supporting Actor (Reynolds and Stallone), with Estella Warren winning Worst Supporting Actress (also for Planet of the Apes).
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