Driven (Nick Hamm, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.
Sometimes when a film does the all too common, unspeakable act of not living up to its exciting and intricate premise, the only thing you can do is offer it a slight nod of respect for suckering you like a naïve child at a P.T. Barnum freak show. Driven offers a glimpse into the “under-the-table” collision of politics, narcotics, and big business that occurred during automotive designer John DeLorean’s grand reveal of his car for the future, the DMC DeLorean. Jason Sudeikis plays Jim Hoffman, a drug smuggler who is looking to cut a deal with the FBI and start over to create a new life with his family. Opportunity comes knocking when Jim finds out that automotive maverick John DeLorean, played by Lee Pace, happens to be his next-door neighbor. The two men start to form the most unlikely of friendships, but with the FBI pressuring Jim to expose his former drug dealer, and the cracks starting to show in DeLorean’s rising company, Jim will have to choose between jail time and freedom.
Nick Hamm’s Driven has all the key components to make a great biopic about ambition and greed but none of skill to properly utilize any of them. Problems arise when screenwriter Colin Bateman chooses to frame John DeLorean, one of the most interesting men of his time, as a mere bystander in the story of Sudeikis’ Jim Hoffman, whose big screen persona is a pale portrayal when compared to Tom Cruise’s similar protagonist Barry Seal in Doug Liman’s American Made. While DeLorean struggles to keep his company afloat, we’re stuck with Jim Hoffman and repetitive scenes of domestic squabbles with his wife, played by Judy Greer, and meetups with an FBI agent, played by Corey Stoll.
I understand the decision to focus on the everyman while the bigger-than-life automotive mogul lives his life in the background. How could we possibly relate to John DeLorean? We couldn’t, but you know what, that’s okay. The rise and fall of John DeLorean was destined to be given a proper cinematic portrayal on the big screen. It’s sad that we’ll have to wait a few more years to get it.
[Editor’s note: The recent hybrid documentary Framing John DeLorean offers a more comprehensive portrait of its subject.]