Driven careens onto the screen wildly, with thrilling, kinetic driving sequences that rip across the screen. Then, thing slow down, people open their mouths and begin speaking, and the soap-operatic, cheesy melodrama kicks in, making things almost laughable at times. If done correctly, there is nothing really wrong with cheesy melodrama, but Driven takes itself a little too seriously for its own good, weaving in too many characters and extraneous subplots to the main story of racing. There are lots of races in Driven, and enough crashes and loud music to keeps one's attention for the duration of the film. The nicest part of Driven is that Sylvester Stallone did not take the spotlight. He is in a large portion of the film, but the film is really about young driver Jimmy Bly (Kip Purdue, Remember the Titans, But I'm a Cheerleader). Bly is a gifted racer on the rise, but is suffering from too much pressure. Instead of concentrating on his love for racing, Bly concentrates on what the people around him expect of him, and this is distracting him and detrimental to his performance on the track (think of it as a really fast Legend of Bagger Vance).

Owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds, The Crew, Mystery, Alaska) brings in Joe Tanto (Stallone, Get Carter, Antz) to help Bly. Tanto used to drive for Henry, and owes him a favor. Bly's brother and manager DeMille (Robert Sean Leonard, Jet, The Last Days of Disco) does not want Tanto around. DeMille is primarily responsible for stroking Bly's ego at the expense of his racing. Tanto's ex-wife Cathy Moreno (Gina Gershon, The Insider, Guinevere) also hangs out for no reason at all. Bly's chief rival is German Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger, SLC Punk!, Knockin' on Heaven's Door). Brandenburg is having problems with his girlfriend Sophia (Estella Warren, Planet of the Apes, Perfume), who soon runs into the open arms of Bly. Had enough? Well, reporter Luc Clan (Stacey Edwards, The Next Best Thing, Black and White) is hanging around working on a story and soon cozies up to Tanto.

Somewhere amidst all this junk is a story. Stallone wrote the screenplay and Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea, The Long Kiss Goodnight) directs as Driven follows the large cast over the course of a season. Is there really any doubt that Brandenburg and Bly will be the top two at the end of the season? There are far too many people in Driven. The characters of Cathy and Luc are largely useless, serving little purpose other than to parade Edwards and Gershon around in tight shirts. Crucial story points border on the ridiculous, especially a chase through the streets of downtown Chicago. Much of the tension between the various characters is also fairly weak. An eclectic variety of music (various songs and a score by genre-hopping electronic artist BT) constantly blares forth from the speakers. It helps heighten tension in the racing scenes, but becomes distracting at other times.

But then the talking stops and the racing begins, things look better. Harlin uses a variety of angles, sweeping movements, and rapid editing during the races, lending an exciting feeling to all of them. The cars zip across the screen like lightning, their engines whining loudly. The crashes are equally spectacular, if not bordering on unrealistic, but that is okay. These races are the most exciting element of Driven, and thankfully there are a number of them to keep the mind occupied. Harlin even uses computer animation to simulate rain obscuring the vision of drivers and turns up the volume on Bly's breathing to create generate a sense of claustrophobia.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language and some intense crash sequences.

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