At least among a younger generation, the absurd true story of legendary carmaker John DeLorean isn’t as well known as it should be. “Driven” gives audiences the chance to uncover the wild tale.
Towards the end of the 70s, a drug-running pilot named Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) moves his family (his wife Ellen played by Judy Greer) to a fancy neighborhood in California. Who is his new neighbor? None other than John DeLorean (the charming Lee Pace). The designer has left the big companies behind to launch his now famous self-named car.
When the finances of his company seem to fall apart, Hoffman helps set up a cocaine deal to raise the money to make his dream a reality. With the FBI along for the ride, Hoffman turns into an informant and sets DeLorean up.
It sounds crazy, but it’s true. With DeLorean’s personality and the car now infamous and synonymous with nostalgia (see: “Back To The Future”), it’s a great story to tell. The problem is that such a wild story is told in a disappointingly vanilla manner by director Nick Hamm.
There’s not a lot obviously wrong with “Driven,” but it also just seems like a cast and crew that is just going through the motions. There’s nothing memorable or unique about it. At times it tries too hard to be charming when Pace is enough on his own. The script never finds a consistent tone and tries too hard to be read with a wink.
DeLorean views his ambition as the American dream. He thinks breaking away from the big boys who are just “tinkering” and creating an actual innovation is what sets him apart. Part of what “Driven” explore is that in reality, he’s full of crap, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still chasing the American dream.
He wants to make American automobiles better and be a great success story. But he lies his way to get there – even saying that Abraham Lincoln and other great Americans cut corners now and then. What they didn’t do is set up a drug deal to fund their ambitions. So is DeLorean an ambitious genius or a criminal and a fraud? The film leaves it up to the viewer to decide.
Part of what hurts “Driven” is a lack of focus on the more interesting parts of the story. It cuts back and forth between DeLorean’s trial and the events leading up to it. While this works for some films, it’s unneeded for this story – in fact, the film doesn’t really find its story until one hour in.
Hamm also makes Hoffman the main subject of the film – everything is seen from his perspective. It would have made more sense to tell the story from DeLorean’s perspective, especially given that Pace carries the weight and substance of the film over Sudeikis.
Tonally, the film flops between wanting to be funny and wanting to be exciting and taken seriously. It’s a hard balance to strike. A film like “American Made“ does it well. “Driven” does not. The cast does their best, but it’s too jarring to keep up on the film’s different moods and a script that is too focused on plot and not enough on characters.
If you’ve never heard the story of John DeLorean, it’s worth researching, but I’m not sure “Driven” is worth two hours to dive into it.
Driven hits theaters and digital on demand August 16th.