on April 27, 2001 by Michael Tunison
   Barely limping to the finish line with a stalling story and flat characters, "Driven" may be the slowest-moving vehicle ever endorsed by the CART racing federation. Despite all the effort that went into its lavish set pieces and special effects, this speedway drama mostly serves to prove that just because men make a living driving cars in excess of 200 miles per hour doesn't automatically make their personal lives interesting.

   Co-star Sylvester Stallone's low-horsepower screenplay centers on the rivalry both on and off the track between talented rookie Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) and reigning king of the circuit Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger), a veteran so focused on winning that he dumps his fiancée (supermodel Estella Warren) for being "a distraction." When the pressure of a potential CART championship starts getting to the inexperienced Bly, the Machiavellian, wheelchair-bound owner of his racing team (Burt Reynolds) pulls a has-been driver (Stallone) out of retirement to play mentor to the kid.

   While director-producer Renny Harlin ("Deep Blue Sea") and company earn points for going against type with the mild-mannered, almost geeky Jimmy as the film's nominal protagonist, Pardue ("Remember the Titans") is so outmuscled by Stallone, commanding German actor-director Schweiger ("Maybe, Maybe Not") and a scenery-chewing Reynolds that the story feels centerless. Teaming with Harlin for this first time since "Cliffhanger," screenwriter-producer Stallone handles dramatic elements--such as a love triangle between Jimmy, Beau and Warren's racetrack groupie character--in a painfully on-the-nose way that makes it hard to believe he once cast the mold for a generation of sports dramas with his "Rocky" script. Predictably, the action specialist Harlin is most at home with the extensive racing sequences, though he overdoes the silly computer-generated crash shots to an extent that "Driven" sometimes feels more like a videogame than a movie--albeit one not as cleverly conceived structured as the average Nintendo offering. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Kip Pardue, Gina Gershon, Til Schweiger, Robert Sean Leonard and Estella Warren. Directed by Renny Harlin. Written by Sylvester Stallone. Produced by Elie Samaha, Sylvester Stallone and Renny Harlin. A Warner Bros. release. Action-drama. Rated PG-13 for language and some intense crash sequences. Running time: 115 min

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