Jared McMillan // Film Critic
“The American Dream” is something that gets mentioned frequently throughout Nick Hamm’s DRIVEN. It’s a central concept in most facets of living, but also a key theme throughout the history of movies. Everyone in the audience can relate to the attempt of achieving their dreams; however, the American dream is based on success – some would say even capitalistic. This mindset is at the center of this story, with two men trying to achieve this type of American dream but ultimately failing.
The tragedy of John DeLorean is well known by now. Once a wunderkind of the auto industry, he crashed and burned in launching the DeLorean Motor Company, as well as its albatross, the DeLorean. DRIVEN takes the tail end of this saga to create a narrative focusing on John (Lee Pace) and his good friend/neighbor Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis). Jim is the main character, navigating his way through the testimony as an FBI informant, which frames the story as it passes through different points in time.
Jim, his wife Ellen (Judy Greer), and their two kids are relocated to California after Jim gets busted transporting cocaine from Bolivia. Special Agent Tisa (Corey Stoll) gets him to flip on his former employer but needs him to get evidence first or go to jail. As they start their new life, Jim becomes friends with John DeLorean. Neighborly at first, they both come to realize that they are kindred spirits, chasing the ultimate goal: John and his car, Jim and his freedom.
However, as the DMC starts hemorrhaging money, John looks to his new friend to traffic cocaine. Jim brings in his former employer, Morgan Hetrick (Michael Cudlitz), to help get the drugs ready for movement. Also, he takes this information to Tisa to cut a new deal for himself and his family, and the FBI can set up the sting operation that will ultimately take down DeLorean. He also starts to see John for what he is.
It’s clear from the beginning that the success of DRIVEN will hinge on how well they convey an already-known story and outcome, which is the challenge of a lot of biopics or stories based on real events. Hamm’s direction plays a lot with focus, shifting between Jim and John while they converse, or blocking the people in the frame as if they are guarded or secretive. It plays well with the story’s flow, subtly keeping the intrigue afloat.
The narrative shifting back and forth between Jim’s testimony and the preceding events does well to come off seamlessly to connect his recollection of events. The courtroom acts as a transitional point to avoid any continuity issues as if he were answering a line of questions. The dialogue has something lacking like more could be said between characters since it centers on con men. However, Sudeikis, Pace & Co. are more than a game to elevate the material.
The performances are what make DRIVEN worth the price of admission. Sudeikis starts off charming and aloof before morphing into a wreck as he’s trying to maintain his cover; and Pace does the opposite, starting tense as he covers for his company sinking, before getting more comfortable in his new role. It creates a stable balance as the movie shifts from Jim as a focus to John. Greer and Stoll are a great support, both having a goal of keeping Jim on the straight-and-narrow. It all works to keep the movie going on all cylinders.
Anchored by solid performances, DRIVEN is an intriguing look into how promise can easily morph into self-destruction. Hard to say if it’ll have a lasting impression, but it will be an entertaining two hours of how the American dream can’t be achieved by cutting corners.
DRIVEN is now playing in select theaters and is available on digital and on demand.