ATLAS F1   Volume 7, Issue 19 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   Drivel: The Movie

  by Mitch McCann, U.S.A.

Atlas F1 sent its prize-winning movie critic, Mitchell McCann, to review that movie everyone's been talking about. You know, that movie about the boxer who became a racing car champion? "Drivel!" we hear you say. Well, imagine that in theatres near you...

My editor must hate me! I've had to watch and write about some really boring races in my time but at least by rule none of them lasted 2 hours and 7 minutes!

Strangely enough, immediately before going out to the cinema I was watching "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" with my kids. "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" has the better race scenes. And now that I come to think of it, it has a more plausible story line, better special effects and the song and dance numbers just leave Stallone cold! If you're thinking of going to see "Driven", borrow some kids (if you don't have your own) and rent "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"! You'll save five bucks and you'll thank me later.

Those of you who'v been following The F1 Insider may know that I've been writing about this movie for years now. For the longest time, Stallone was threatening to make this stinker about F1. Those of you who doubt my powers of prognostication should be advised that I was right about this movie even before the first hint of a plot began to cross the mind of The Italian Stallion - the exact time and place of that thought being 5 minutes before shooting began in a back lot bathroom. We should all turn and genuflect in the direction of Bernie Ecclestone and give thanks.

I've been ruminating on this movie for about a week now and I finally have to admit to myself that I can't come up with a single redeeming feature. Amongst some of the descriptions that I've read in other reviews the best I've seen was "unreleasable". Had this movie gone straight to free TV, my recommendation would have been not to waste your money.

Apparently, this movie did $10 million on its opening weekend but that obviously was not including the showing that I attended which would have nicely rounded out the total to $10,000,064 (plus 2 bags of popcorn).

I should point out here that this review contains several spoilers - not that Stallone needed any help in that regard. If you plan to see this movie and you don't want to know the plot:

  1. Don't read this article; and

  2. You have even less imagination than Stallone.

For those of you with the sense to realize that "Ain't gonna be no rematch" is the set-up for a sequel, here's the Cliff notes version of "Driven": young phenom arrives on scene; arrogant champion ditches girlfriend; championship tied; (ignore contrived character angst and sub-plot with evil brother - not worth the electrons); heroic actions of hero lead to injury and end of championship challenge; miracle recovery; last race of season.... I wish you could bet on movie endings! I will leave you some measure of suspense as to who gets the girl because I can tell you that particular plot twist had me reminiscing fondly about "The Bridges of Madison County".

But lets cut to the chase. This movie is bad. Not in a Michael Jackson kind of way but more in a sort of fetid, foul-smelling, rancid sort of way. I expected the plot to be poor because after all, even "Grand Prix" has a dull, plodding love story as its foundation. But at least with that movie you can fast forward through the boring bits to the really good racing scenes.

"Driven" had a total of 15 seconds of good race coverage. A couple of wide-screen, aerial shots of actual races at Long Beach and Detroit and that was it. The rest of the action scenes were poorly conceived, physically impossible and poorly executed. The "computer generated effects" for some inexplicable reason were replaced by cartoons in this movie, the most notable being (and I kid you not) the scene where Stallone uses the inside curb on a corner to launch himself into the air so that he can overtake the bad guy by flying over the grass on the inside of the corner and landing on the track in the lead. (By the way, the bad guy and current champion is an arrogant German and Stallone's team boss - Burt Reynolds - is confined to a wheelchair. Where does he come up with this stuff?!)

Those race scenes that were staged with real (or look-alike) Champ Cars were clearly filmed at something less than 30 mph and no attempt was made to make it appear otherwise.

The plot is formulaic in the extreme and after watching the opening two minutes, even an epsilon minus semi-moron could predict the final outcome that only the bravest of souls, the most amorous of couples and those on assignment will actually bother sticking around for. The only surprise in this movie is that Stallone managed to work a synchronized swimming scene into a movie about motor racing! (What do you call solo synchronized swimming??)

Which brings me to the question I've been unable to answer for the last week. Who the hell did he make this movie for? Presumably, it was intended for race fans but anybody who knows anything about motor racing would be so disgusted by the outlandish plot, absurd race scenes and horrible special effects that they're likely to walk out of the cinema pining for Days of Thunder. And for anybody who's not into motor racing, the uninteresting love story, lack of character development and the cumbersome presence of Sylvester Stallone make this an equally unappealing movie. No, the only audience for this movie is Sylvester Stallone fans and I thought the last one of them had died in an unfortunate accident with a pair of left-handed scissors in 1987.

For race fans there are just an endless of series of opportunities to raise your eyebrows, hold you nose or look at your watch. For example,

  • Champ Cars typically spend more time on the ground than in the air - not in this movie.

  • Champ Cars cannot typically defy the laws of physics. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, suspension of a spinning racecar while 6 others drive underneath is it something else. (It did get clobbered by the seventh though).

  • Sylvester Stallone could not get from the pitwall to a crash scene five minutes before the safety crew.

  • Turning around and driving backwards on the track because your teammate crashed is not a good thing for driver safety.

  • You cannot just jump in a Champ car and drive off in a huff on the streets of Detroit because typically they don't let rookies look after the keys. And even if you could, you couldn't get your seatbelts done up.

  • Depending on your point of origin, it's called the draft or slipstream, not vacuum.

  • Memo Moreno is a stupid name for a race driver. Or even two race drivers.

  • Race fans are not typically synchronized swimming fans.

I could go on and on and if I knew as much about CART as I do about F1 I could probably give the Energizer bunny a run for his money. (For instance, if a blazing racecar flew 100 feet in the air and crashed in a pond in the middle of the woods - it could happen! - would the methanol explode? And if so, why do they put out methanol fires with water?)

You may think this review contains The Insider's normal measure of exaggeration, hyperbole and stuff that I made up, in which case I can only suggest that you go check it out for yourself.

I dare you!

(Sylvester Stallone was unavailable for comment at time of going to press, as he was busy slipstreaming his living room carpet).

Mitch McCann© 2007
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