Movie drives action genre to new level of mediocrity

Driven boasts a nonstop string of action and car crashes that look almost as painful as it feels sitting through two hours of the film’s corny storyline and excessive cleavage shots.

Sylvester Stallone plays Joe Tanto, a former racecar driver lured back by Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) to help a rookie in a rough spot. Henry asks Tanto to partner with rookie Jimmy Bly, played by Kip Pardue (Remember the Titans). This is a comeback of sorts for Tanto. Holes appear early in the plot as the film fails to explain Tanto’s original departure from the sport. The film vaguely alludes that Tanto left racing because of an accident and a problem with his ex-wife.

Pardue manages to churn out an acceptable but largely uninspired performance as Bly, who buckles under the pressures of racing. His promoter and brother, played by Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poets Society), demands that he beat his rival Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger), who leaves his girlfriend because she distracts him from racing.

Conflict between the two racers surfaces when Bly begins dating Sophia, played by Estella Warren (Down and Under). The relationship between Bly and Sophia is incompatible and implausible. Bly seems to continue the relationship simply to aggravate Brandenburg.

While Stallone acts like a big brother to other racers, helping them sort out their personal problems, his own shallowness remains untouched. His Mr. Nice Guy personality and cheesy words of wisdom seem out of place.

Stallone’s character develops a relationship with a journalist, played by Stacy Edwards (Primary Colors), that also lacks purpose. Edwards falls in love with Tanto, while writing a story on male dominance in racing.

Although the film’s action revs up to a good start with unique and fast moving camera shots, the film takes a wrong turn after a highly unrealistic car chase through city streets. Driven quickly goes downhill with excessive car crashes and special effects that emulate a flashy video game. Die Hard 2 director Renny Harlin creates action sequences as overdone and predictable as ones in his other films.

Reynolds does a passable job with his low-grade character. But he lacks dimension like many other characters in the film

Gina Gershon (Face Off) adds light to the film with her small but entertaining role as Tanto’s ex-wife. Now remarried, her character holds a bitchy, sardonic attitude. Her interaction with Stallone and Edwards provide the film’s funnier moments.

Predictably, Stallone saves the day by solving every character’s problem. The conclusion has the most potential for give the film a creative spin, but it falls short. The brotherly bond that develops between the racers is unrealistic and overdone.

Driven starts off fast but the predictable ending and weak story crash and burn.

Driven is in theaters Friday

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