At best, Driven will get some replay burn on Cinemax or whatever conglomerate streaming app is erected in the next six months to battle Netflix.
In unpacking a sensationalist chapter of ‘80s pop culture history, Driven proves a mild curio, but it functions entirely on the back of its talented cast. This is, above all else, a mediocre movie made watchable by likable actors enjoying themselves.
Driven is principally about John DeLorean, the creator of the eponymous car later made famous by Back to the Future, but its protagonist is erstwhile FBI informant Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis). Hoffman is a pilot who gets caught trafficking cocaine by dickhead fed Benedict Tisa (Corey Stoll), who puts Hoffman on the government payroll under the auspices he’ll help them capture Morgan Hetrick (Michael Cudlitz), Hoffman’s friend and former employer. The only trouble is that Hoffman sucks at being an informant and Hetrick’s money is tied up overseas.
When Hoffman relocates his family and meets new neighbor DeLorean (Lee Pace), he and Agent Tisa see an opportunity to lure Hetrick and his ill-gotten gains out into the open, leading an experimental businessman like DeLorean into a gigantic cocaine deal to keep his fledgling car company alive. Now, how true this narrative pretense is in actually explaining how a temporary titan of the auto industry fell so far from grace is irrelevant. Making this a double feature with this year’s Framing John DeLorean documentary, few facts line-up particularly well, but the entire affair works far better as a charming character study than a docudrama.
At its center, the film’s three leads all seem diametrically opposed. Hoffman, a lifelong shitbag embarrassing his wife (Judy Greer) at every turn with his short-sighted criminal activities, is constantly berated by straight arrow law enforcer Tisa, each of whom appears leagues away from the walking myth DeLorean purports himself to be. But as the film progresses, it’s clear all three men are relentless practitioners of deception, lying to themselves as much as those around them. Hoffman may be a perpetually broke crook and Tisa may be narrow-minded cop, but they’re both as prone to compulsive con artistry as DeLorean must be to succeed in his field.
So, while the film’s script is boilerplate at best and director Nick Hamm’s staging and framing feel like the cinematic equivalent of hotel wallpaper, the film provides a useful playground for its leading actors to shine. Sudeikis is brilliantly typecast as a smarmy snake with a heart of gold, offering a low-effort performance that still yields remarkable results. His chemistry with Greer is fantastic, even if she steals every single scene she’s in. Stoll has the least to do, but it gives him enough of a chip on his shoulder to appear so persistent in his douchebaggery.
But the standout is clearly Pace as DeLorean. While Alec Baldwin does a hokey “SNL” impression in the dramatic reenactments of this year’s DeLorean documentary, Pace goes the Fassbender as Steve Jobs route, nailing the mythological aura and reality-distortion field emanating from every self-professed tech disruptor. He’s a cagey huckster luxuriating in just how effectively he convinces everyone he meets of his near godhood. It’s the sort of performance Pace can deliver in his sleep, but he always seems to be stuck in movies far beneath his considerable pedigree.
At best, Driven will get some replay burn on Cinemax or whatever conglomerate streaming app is erected in the next six months to battle Netflix, but it’s a great little exhibition for its cast, each of whom would be far better served in a stronger movie than this one.