Driven (2019)

Southern California, 1980s. Ex-con pilot-turned-FBI-snitch Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) sparks up a friendship with visionary car designer John DeLorean (Lee Pace). The latter lures the former into a drug deal designed to revive DeLorean’s flagging fortunes but it gets complicated when FBI wonk Benedict J. Tisa (Corey Stoll) sees an opportunity to crack a drug ring.

By Ian Freer | Posted 9 days ago

There’s something very familiar about Driven. Nick Hamm’s film of the true-life friendship between Jim Hoffman (Sudeikis), a drug smuggler-turned-FBI snitch, and John DeLorean (Pace), visionary car designer and creator of Doc Brown’s time machine, has the feel of Doug Liman’s American Made or David O. Russell’s American Hustle, a breezy tale of amoral characters with more period production detail than actual substance. Despite strong performances from Sudeikis and Pace, there is little that is fresh and original to give it an identity of its own.

Nick Hamm’s lively direction keeps it moving and the period production details are fun.

The action starts with FBI bod Benedict J. Tisa (Stoll) coaching Hoffman (“Stay focused, calm, honest”) as the latter arrives in court to give testimony. The film subsequently flashes back to the mid ’70s, with Hoffman busted by Tisa for trafficking coke from Studio 54 and placed in an upscale Southern Californian neighbourhood as an undercover moll to ensnare a big-time drug dealer (Michael Cudlitz). Yet the real relationship Hoffman forms is with John DeLorean, who turns up at Hoffman’s house with a drawing of a wing-doored car and bags of charisma. When DeLorean’s fortunes flag, the opportunistic Hoffman begins to see a way to fulfill his obligations to the Feds.

The bulk of the film etches this imbalanced friendship, Sudeikis turning Hoffman into a likeable loser who lands on his feet, Pace giving DeLorean both charm and a steely centre. Nick Hamm’s lively direction keeps it moving — helped by an obvious playlist of ’70s and ’80s hits — and the period production details are fun (look out for DeLorean’s see-through ping pong table). Yet as a film it lacks both cinematic width (you imagine what Scorsese might have done with this material) and dramatic depths. There is little that is exciting here. A bit more of DeLorean-esque vision might have gone a long way.

An enjoyable if routine period crime picture with good performances from Jason Sudeikis and Lee Pace, but it lacks a personality and style of its own.