"Driven (2019)" Movie Review
Few people, outside of auto industry insiders, probably know much at all about John DeLorean, other than perhaps his cocaine charges and the fact that his namesake car was immortalized (along with a custom flux capacitor) in the Back to the Future series.
Starring Lee Pace as the automaker, Nick Hamm’s Driven aims to correct that, giving us a biopic that, as its title suggests, shows us the ambitious DeLorean trying to stay relevant after his time as a vice president at General Motors came to an end.
After founding his own company, he personally designed its first car, the DMC-12, complete with the iconic gull-wing doors. Years of financial problems, however, plagued the company, which eventually went bankrupt. Of course, the fact that DeLorean had been busted in an FBI undercover drug trafficking sting didn’t help.
The story of Driven is told in flashback through the oh-so-idealistic eyes of DeLorean’s neighbor and pseudo-business partner Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis). We’re told early-on about Hoffman’s shady past, which ultimately catches up to him and also leads to DeLorean’s downfall. Hoffman, who had drug connections across the globe, sold DeLorean on the idea of using the profits from a drug ring to fund the floundering company, and the ensuing trial (following DeLorean’s arrest) provides the backbone of the film.
There’s no doubt about the fascinating story at play here—from the colorful characters to the seemingly endless downward spiral of confoundingly bad decisions. Ultimately, however, Driven is all talk and no action, and Hamm is unfortunately content to just let everything play out as a series of ho-hum conversations with bland dialogue.
Seeming more like a second-rate Lifetime movie than a feature film, Driven takes a safe a route as possible through the whack-a-doo story playing out before us. Why Hamm (along with screenwriter Colin Bateman) didn’t choose to shake things up is a bit of a mystery, but at least the performances from Sudeikis and Pace add a little bit of a pulse to the proceedings. Even better is the work by Judy Greer as Hoffman’s put-upon wife Ellen and Michael Cudlitz as a drug-dealing yahoo who Hoffman brings into the fold.
Alas Driven winds up feeling like little more than a missed opportunity to successfully tell a tale that in real life had more twists and turns than the Nurburgring. Like the namesake car at its center, though, the film has plenty of promise but just clunks along until its all-too-predictable demise.