By all accounts, Formula One racing is the most popular sport in the world. It's certainly the most glamorous in a society where speed is sexy... F1 rookie Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) obviously needs a wise mentor not a smart manager, so his car's owner, Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds in a wheelchair), calls on his old pal Joe Tanto (Stallone) to coax the whiz kid away from bland influence of his pushy brother DeMille (Robert Sean Leonard), and the romantic distraction of blonde groupie Sophia (Estella Warren, from the Planet Of The Apes remake), a rival driver's girlfriend. This change of emphasis from Stallone's mature drama to telling the coming of age story of a boy racer means Driven is fast, flashy and lightweight rather than a film about characters. Most fun is the car chase through Chicago at night (filmed in Toronto, where they closed many of the city's streets), but don't try that at home! Gina Gershon does her queen bitch routine (again), but to even less import than usual, so what makes the biggest impression here is the excellent visual trickery.
Apart from dealing with the logistical circus of filming at real life international sporting events in Brazil, Australia, Japan and Germany, Driven is a remarkable showcase for racing in which mini-cameras put viewers into the driving seat for a pretty wild ride. These 1,000 horsepower, nearly plastic-weight cars move at 250 mph, pulling five Gs on the turns. What makes this film even more unusual, and I think, particularly intriguing, is the particular use of digital effects. CG shots, like the 'tunnel vision' experienced by drivers at high speed may seem a bit gimmicky, and the slo-mo digital rain looks like a cartoon, but the movie features a couple of amazing CG-enhanced stunts, utilising the computer toolkit's full potential.
The aesthetic of this technology is how it may be used to distort and, crucially, control time and space on cinema or TV screens with an impressive exactness. In particular, The Matrix has established this trend with its virtual reality backstory, proving that CGI opens up more possibilities for filmmakers than just economical depiction or representation of physical objects including static buildings, moving devices (Japanese styled mecha seems a natural for digital), and exotic creatures, using new desktop techniques to replace 'outmoded' model animation and matte paintings. Driven has over 600 effects shots, a staggering number made possible only because Harlin's production set-up their own makeshift digital department, and their greatest triumph is surely Memo's crash. Here, the car is airborne, nose down, and time almost stands still for a view from the ill-fated driver's cockpit of other cars passing in a blur below. This is a dazzlingly achieved quiet moment of judicious stillness in a film that's often all too hurried along, by rapid cutting and thunderous rock music.
DVD extras: director's commentary, deleted scenes (52 minutes) about character of Tanto with commentary by Stallone lamenting his writing and acting efforts that were cut. Making-of footage (15 minutes) by HBO First Look, a documentary Conquering Speed Through Live Action And Visual Effects which only amounts to 10 minutes about a pit-stop fire that isn't even in the film, trailers for the film and spin-off game, index of 34 chapters, choice of soundtracks (English, French, Italian) in Dolby digital 5.1 plus 12 subtitled languages.