Fast Film Friday: Driven (2001)
DISCLAIMER: We at Demaras Racing are not so delusional to claim that Stallone’s ‘Driven‘ is in the same league as Richie Cunningham’s 2013 film ‘Rush‘ or Frankenheimer’s 1966 classic ‘Grand Prix‘ but it’s at least as good as ‘Days of Thunder‘ and definitely deserves a place in our Fast Film Fridays section.
To be frank, it’s pretty hard to find a good review of ‘Driven‘. In the 20+ years since its release, few look back at the movie with nostalgia, and the GCI has aged really badly. But we did find a sort-of good review on Letterboxd from Cinematic Underdogs that captures what ‘Driven‘ is all about:
‘Driven‘ is a notoriously maligned, high-octane car wreck of a movie you have to see to believe.
Tracking the CART open-wheel circuit, Renny Harlin adapts Sly Stallone’s bloated script and delivers ADHD-addled thrills from start to finish. Don’t let the uptight nitpicks detract you. Buckle-up and prepare to be manhandled by queasy handheld camerawork, wild CGI crash sequences, frenetic fast-cut giddiness, a random rapid-fire edits synched to camera clicks, an awkward paraplegic Burt Reynolds performance, lots of Top Gun-esque wingman dynamics, gratuitous racetrack montages, a diesel-fueled metal and country music soundtrack, and last but not least, one of silliest street chases ever put to screen.
If you’re down for a flashy, jam-packed spectacle of gonzo, over-the-top filmmaking with little emotional or narrative credibility, hop right in!
And that’s the positive review. Sure, the movie had some setbacks, but it isn’t nearly as bad as critics say.
‘Driven‘ was supposed to be about Formula 1, with Burt Reynolds as Sir Frank Williams, and Til Schweiger in a red racing suit reminiscent of Michael Schumacher. Between screenplay and filming, the focus of the film was switched to CART. This happy accident meant the movie could be shot in Toronto!
The main race sequences were shot during the Molson Indy from July 13th to 16th, 2000. Director Renny Harlin and a full 250 member film crew surrounded the street circuit with 13 cameras while also filming from a helicopter. The director filmed with the CART race as background, adding authenticity. When the actual event was over and Michael Andretti, Alex Tagliani and Adrian Fernandez exited the champagne splashed podium, the crew set up cameras and immediately filmed the actors on the same podium with the cheering crowd as unintentional extras. It’s brilliant filmmaking, and apparently Brad Pitt will use the same technique in his upcoming Formula 1 film.
The high point of the movie is undoubtedly the IndyCar street chase scene. In the movie, the scene takes place in Chicago, but in reality, the sequence was shot over ten nights on University Ave in downtown Toronto. Later, footage of the IndyCars racing through the tunnels of downtown Montreal were spliced in for extra excitement. This scene was one of the most ambitious car chase scenes ever filmed,
OK, so ‘Driven‘ wasn’t the ‘Top Gun‘ of racing movies. But if you ignore the continuity errors, the stock characters and terrible computer animation, the film has many redeeming moments. It captures part of the 2000 CART season on film, including the home race in Toronto. Plus, just try driving along University Ave next time without re-enacting the chase scene.