To say that John DeLorean is an interesting figure is quite the understatement. The charismatic car entrepreneur created one of the most idiosyncratic vehicles ever produced – made famous as a time machine in the Back to the Future trilogy – and then fell from grace in dramatic fashion as he became incriminated in a massive cocaine deal. BAFTA-winning filmmaker Nick Hamm takes on that story in Driven – a stranger than fiction drama with an offbeat tone.
Lee Pace portrays DeLorean, but the protagonist is Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) – a pilot who finds himself backed into a corner by Corey Stoll’s FBI agent when he’s caught flying a huge amount of cocaine into the USA from Colombia. He takes a deal to become an informant and is moved into the home next door to DeLorean’s opulent LA pad. They become friends and, when the charismatic car maker’s ambitious business interests lead him to fall on hard times in the early 1980s, Jim makes an untoward suggestion.
The presence of Sudeikis in the lead role of Hamm’s film suggests a comedic element to the story, and that’s certainly there, though it sits somewhat awkwardly against the rest of the tone. His performance is big and broad, with an absurd moustache, and he dominates the film, slightly to the detriment of everything around him.
Pace is suave and enigmatic as DeLorean, complete with ultra-white hair and dense thickets of eyebrows, but his quieter work is somewhat overwhelmed by Sudeikis’ showier turn. Pace is not helped by a script which seems more interesting in nodding at the most iconic DeLorean – “it’s like science fiction or something,” says Hoffman when he sees the first sketches – than in enhancing the character himself.
Outside of the performances, though, there’s something a little lifeless about Driven, despite how much cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub evidently loves the quasi-cartoon glow of the California sunshine. The story is intriguing, but not overly cinematic in its approach, and Hamm’s movie lacks the infectious energy of the similarly themed American Made or the grim power of Sicario. There’s a listless, overly shiny, televisual feel to much of the storytelling that the movie is never quite able to overcome, not helped by some shonky bits of editing.
Outside of the central duo, Driven is a film that rather squanders its actors. Judy Greer, sadly, is under-written in what essentially amounts to a thankless wife role and Corey Stoll never really gets to do anything beyond play the generic cop, with added disguises for his secret rendezvous scenes with Hoffman. The wraparound device of the DeLorean court case is another damp squib, which never quite adds the ticking clock drama it is designed to create.
With that said, however, Driven is an enjoyable and sharply scripted movie that benefits from the charisma of its central players. It’s perhaps more theoretically compelling than it is in practice, but those who bring along an interest in the DeLorean story will find a perfectly competent dramatisation of it here.
Dir: Nick Hamm
Scr: Colin Bateman
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Lee Pace, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll, Isabel Arraiza, Justin Bartha, Erin Moriarty
Prd: René Besson, Brad Feinstein, Walter Josten, Luillo Ruiz
DOP: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Music: Geronimo Mercado
Country: USA, Puerto Rico, UK
Run time: 108 mins
Driven is in UK cinemas from 8th November.