August 13th, 2019
STARRING: JASON SUDEIKIS; LEE PACE; JUDY GREER; COREY STOLL; JUSTIN BARTHA
DIRECTED BY: NICK HAMM
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
There have been plenty of movies about John DeLorean lately, but Driven is my introduction to the car creator. That might be the reason why I enjoyed this one as much as I did. Especially because this is not a biopic, or even a movie, claiming to get it all right. It’s less about DeLorean and more about his neighbor, Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis), a guy who made his money flying cocaine to various locations for drug smugglers, and when he became an informant for the FBI, he just so happen to become friends with John DeLorean (Lee Pace). Director Nick Hamm keeps this tale, about a double crossing friendship, as light as possible, with humor and a reminder that what drives you can be someone’s undoing.
The introduction to Jim Hoffman (Sudeikis) is at his most vulnerable, arriving at a private airport, with his family, some bundles of cocaine in the back, and a welcome party from the FBI. This leads to the interrogating of Hoffman by Special Agent Benedict Tisa (Corey Stoll), who is baffled by Hoffman’s slimy efforts of using his family as a shield for his dirty deeds. The only move is to become an informant for the feds or sacrifice any form of dignity that Hoffman had left. For his luck, it turns out that his neighbor is John DeLorean (Pace), a man on the brink of his own desperation. Two desperate men making a connection leads to someone headed to destruction.
There are a few factors at hand to why Driven worked for me. The script from Colin Bateman does a good job of balancing the humorist side of Sudeikis, while working with the serious, dramatic tone from Lee Pace. Although both actors are sporting what some may view as distracting pompadour-like hair styles, Sudeikis sports a slimy used car salesman mustache- ala Bill Paxton in True Lies; It works, especially because their 60’s-70’s look matches their personalities. The supporting cast is strong as well, with Judy Greer as supportive wife Ellen Hoffman, elegantly done up in wealthy dresses, while staying out of her husband’s affairs to be just enough naïve. And then Stoll, who brings his tough-guy charisma as the voice that brings the seriousness of the situation back to reality.
It is that reality of this story that will fascinate audiences. I was reminded of films I enjoyed before, such as American Made or Bryan Cranston in The Infiltrator. Now, many know John DeLorean for his creation of the car that became known as Marty McFly’s form of transportation in Back to the Future, but this highlights his companies failure. The narrative grows from a pleasant friendship, including luxury parties at each others mansions, friendly dinners, and soon shifts into business meetings, how to fund car factories in Canada, and an introduction to two of Hoffman’s cocaine dealer friends (played perfectly uncomfortable by Erin Moriarty & Michael Cudlitz). Driven is not a question of whether bad decisions will be made, it’s just exactly how the double crossing is going to go.
I also enjoyed the easy going tempo that director Nick Hamm brought to Driven. The director of past films such as Killing Bono and The Journey has a knack for telling true stories, but here he scrapes away the standard cliches, rarely focusing only on the drug deals or courtroom scenes, and instead boils it down to a friendship that is set up in a moment of kindness between neighbors and became the demise of two men. Driven can at times be an odd mixture of drama, but it is the perfect role for Jason Sudeikis, who delivers a funny, and oddly emotional performance. Driven becomes another cautionary tale, a type of narrative that I grow more fond of every year. It seems to be the kind of story we need to hear more of. It’s as American as apple pie. Everyone is Driven to their own demise. One way or the other.
DRIVEN is in theaters and on digital/demand August 16, 2019.
Written by: Leo Brady