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It has been a rough few years for Sylvester Stallone. After enjoying huge success in the 80’s and early 90’s it has been a long time since he has had a box office smash. During the 80’s everywhere you looked you would see Stallone. He became famous particularly for his roles in the Rocky and Rambo series'. Among some of his other hits was Cliffhanger, which was directed by Renny Harlin. Cliffhanger was one of Stallone’s last successes so it was no great surprise to see him teaming up with Harlin once again for Driven. Stallone wrote the screenplay and hired Harlin to direct the movie. However would the magic of Harlin be enough to kick start Stallone's failing career?

Driven revisits the world of motor car racing twelve years after Tom Cruise’s Days of Thunder graced our screens. A lot has happened in twelve years and the technology has advanced enough to make Driven a promising project. As would be expected Sylvester Stallone plays the main character Joe Tanto a car racing driver who is persuaded to come out of retirement by long term friend Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds). Henry is manager of an racing car team and sees Tanto as the perfect coach for rookie driver Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue). Bly is a promising young driver who has a real chance of winning the championship. However recent results have raised concerns about Bly’s mental state to win the championship.  Stallone’s character is thought to be the ideal person to guide the youngster to the championship. Only World Champion Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger) stands in Bly’s way of becoming this season’s champion. Things are complicated further by Bly’s infatuation with Brandenburg’s former girlfriend played by Estella Warren.

Driven received a huge amount of criticism when released and some of it is justified. The acting is very wooden at times which you might come to expect from Sylvester Stallone, but to be honest he is not the only culprit! As I was writing this review I noticed that Estella Warren had won the worst supporting actress at the 22nd Annual Razzie Awards, which are given to the industry's worst on the eve of the Oscars. Her performance is certainly representative of the acting in general in Driven. One of the most disappointing performances has to go to Bert Reynolds for his role as the team manager. I have never seen a man wear so much makeup and his whole performance was just embarrassing. I thought that he had reached an all time low by starring in StripTease but his performance in Driven at least matches that!

What also disappointed me about Driven was the dodgy CG used throughout the movie. Some of the race scenes were pretty impressive but others looked fake. Two scenes particularly stick in my mind. There is one scene where Tanto and Bly race through the streets after stealing two race cars. This scene is unbelievable enough but the special effects just make it a farcical five minutes. The other scene, which made me cringe was the final race. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a crash and you see a wheel spin up in the air and travel towards the spectators.  This sequence looked more like a cartoon and was extremely disappointing.

So far you are probably thinking that Driven is going to get a bad score from me. Even though the above points spoil the film I still found it reasonably enjoyable. Renny Halin has created a fast packed documentary style movie, which certainly passes the time. I say documentary because that is how the movie felt to me. Each race is introduced in a documentary way with commentators and real life footage being shown. Some of the race scenes are pretty exciting and cleverly filmed. I have done a bit of research and apparently some of the race scenes are actually taken from real life footage. Driven could have been a complete mess but Harlin’s input saved it from being a turkey. I am a fan of Harlin’s other movies like Die Hard and Deep Blue Sea so I was expecting a reasonably high paced movie. Whilst not recommending Driven as a nights entertainment I, could think of far worse films to watch. As to the earlier mention of whether Driven would kick start Stallone's career, well he is going to have to do a lot better then this to get the audiences paying to watch his movies. There is nothing in Driven to persuade me that Stallone is back to his best. If I was to write a school report about his performance in this movie it would probably contain the words ‘must do better!’

Driven is given a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation which brings the world of racing to the screen with great clarity and colour. You may not like the film but Roadshow have certainly pulled out all the stops with this transfer.  I would probably go as far as to say that this is reference quality.  Contrast and sharpness are spot on and the black levels, which can be seen during the night street chase scene, are excellent. There is no sign of edge enhancement and the dreaded artifacts are nowhere to be seen! This transfer is probably one of the clearest I have seen so far. Examples of this can be seen in any of the race scenes where the crowd is brought to the screen with wonderful clarity. If you are after a disc to show off to your friends then this transfer is worth the retail price alone.  

We are treated to two soundtracks with this disc. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a DTS track. one. There is very little difference between the tracks. Both tracks use the full range of speakers with the rears getting a particularly good workout during some of the races.  During the races you actually feel like you are in the middle of them. The dialog at times seemed a little muffled and hard to hear. However this probably has something to do with the fact that the surrounding noise is so loud. Overall these tracks do a good job. If  I was going to recommend one of them I would go for the DTS track as it sounds a little livelier, but there is very little difference to be truthful.

First up on the disc are Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Sylvester Stallone. There are ten deleted scenes altogether on this disc. They run in a seamless branch and have a combined running time of just over thirty-eight minutes. The picture quality varies considerably between the scenes. Some of the earlier scene are very poor quality.  Each scene has  ‘property of Warner brothers’ displayed at the top of the picture. This disc probably has one of the most elaborate sets of deleted scenes that I've seen, but to be honest if I wasn’t reviewing this disc I would have stopped watching after about the second one. All of the scenes develop the character personalities and there is no actual new action. The first and the last deleted scenes are pretty laughable really as they try to dwell on the sentimental aspect of the characters and they fail dismally. It just goes to show that action directors shouldn’t really try to build character relationships in movies. The scenes become very boring after a while and only a few of them are worthwhile. It is easy to see why they were deleted! One thing I did notice was that some of the scenes that were deleted were actually in the Region 1 version I watched a few months ago. All of the deleted scenes can be watched with their original sound or with an optional commentary with Sylvester Stallone.

With this disc you also get a feature-length audio commentary by director Renny Harlin. Renny talks about various aspects in this commentary. He mentions that he is a fan of the sport and that coming from Finland it is expected that you would like motor sports. What is clear from this commentary is that Harlin is very interested in all aspects of the film and is very enthusiastic. He explains why and how various shots were done. I am not a great fan of commentaries but I found this one to be interesting and it added a little more depth to the movie.  

Two documentaries are included with the Driven DVD. The first one is a behind-the-scenes documentary entitled "The Making-Of Driven". It has a running time of just over fifteen minutes. The documentary starts off by giving some facts about the movie. For example there were 270,000 spectators used as extras in the film. The first two minutes of this documentary is fast paced with rock music playing in the background with lots of clips being shown. During the fifteen minutes we are shown various interviews with the stars including Sly, Renny Harlin, Gina Gerson and Burt Reynolds. The cast explain their characters whilst also expressing their enjoyment from filming the movie. What interested me the most during the documentary was Harlin’s chat about film the movie during live races. Some of the footage was filmed in the pits a few minutes before live races were taking place.

The other documentary that we are treated to is called “Conquering Speed Through Live Action and Visual Effects". This has a shorter running time of just over nine and a half minutes. This documentary is not as interesting as the making of documentary. It basically shows some of the main scenes in the movie and how they were created. This is a documentary for the more technically minded.

Also included as an extra is the theatrical trailer. This trailer is actually one of the best that I have seen for a long time. It makes the film out to be much more exciting then it actually is. It is only about a minute long but managed to set a frantic pace and doesn’t give too much of the story away. Certainly worth a quick look. The disc also includes cast and crew biographies, which have now become standard on most discs.

I have watched Driven a few times now and it is the sort of film I would struggle to recommend but still found myself enjoying. It is well paced and has some exciting scenes but there are too many weaknesses, which restrict the film from being a classic. The acting is poor, there is little character development and some of the race scenes just don’t look real enough. The same cannot be said for the disc itself.  It has an excellent transfer, a full of life soundtrack and some quality extras. If you are a fan of car racing films then give this a try. However if you are not interested in cars then you wont find much to keep you entertained.