Saturday 29 May 2021

Movie Review: Driven (2018)

A bedazzling character-driven drama about friendship and the pursuit of grand dreams, Driven is glossy, humorous and captivating.

Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) takes to the witness stand to be grilled in a high-profile court case, and his startling testimony is revealed in flashbacks. 

In the 1970s, Jim is a scrappy small-plane pilot married to Ellen (Judy Greer). He is busted by FBI agent Benedict Tisa (Corey Stoll) after drugs are found stashed in his plane. In return for staying out of prison Jim becomes an FBI informant based in a swish San Diego neighbourhood, attempting to get wiretap evidence against drug importer Morgan Hetrick (Michael Cudlitz).

Jim is astonished to learn his neighbours are celebrity car designer John DeLorean (Lee Pace) and his glamorous wife Cristina (Isabel Arraiza). Having left General Motors, the charismatic DeLorean is wooing investors to fund the manufacturing of his ground-breaking new car design. Jim and John become unlikely friends and the Hoffmans are sucked into an orbit of wealth and celebrity parties. But with agent Benedict demanding dirt on Morgan and DeLorean running into financial difficulties, Jim's life is about to get very complicated.

Directed with panache by Nick Hamm and inspired by actual events, Driven adopts a warped, almost goofy perspective on a facts-are-stranger-than-fiction story, in the wacky mold of American Hustle. Colin Bateman's script wisely steps outside DeLorean's dream-big kaleidoscope and uses Jim Hoffman as an entryway into two insane worlds. Morgan Hetrick imports cocaine at an industrial scale, John DeLorean wants to build a car company from scratch, and Hoffman stands at the intersection of the bright and dark sides of the American Dream.

The flashback structure is well-worked, with Bateman keeping a few tricks up his sleeve until well into the testimony. In the meantime, the shady but ever-smiling Hoffman is the perfect storyteller, an expert at goading his inquisitors into blind corners, honest enough to be unreliably reliable, and smart enough to get himself and his family in - and only maybe out - of all sorts of trouble.

The counterpoint is John DeLorean, here portrayed as a hypnotically galvanizing man, living his own legend as the youngest executive in the history of General Motors. He now pursues the audacious dream of building a better car company, in many ways a spiritual successor to Tucker. Jason Sudeikis and Lee Pace bring the two men to life with intensely colourful performances, articulating the rational bond between friends possessing vastly different skill sets.

The costumes, cars and set-designs recreate the hilariously gaudy razzmatazz of the late 1970s, as Driven powers its way to a suitably manic yet evocative conclusion. Drugs, cars, and money provide the flash, but high-pressure tests of an unlikely friendship form the throbbing heart of this bombastic adventure.

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