With its coke, cars and capitalism, “Driven” could only be set in the 1980s. And despite the Northern Irish roots of both its director Nick Hamm and screenwriter Colin Bateman, this crime film is a distinctly American story, full of ambition, innovation and hubris.
“Driven” is inspired by the real-life events surrounding the rise and fall of car designer John DeLorean (Lee Pace), but Bateman’s script centers on low-level criminal Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis), a far less famous figure. As full of charm as he is of bunk, Jim is implicated in a drug deal gone wrong in the late 1970s, and he becomes an FBI informant to save himself and his family.
But instead of just ensnaring his partner Morgan Hetrick (Michael Cudlitz), the target of Special Agent Benedict Tisa (Corey Stoll), Jim also has the potential to bring in his new neighbor in a swank SoCal neighborhood. And John DeLorean is desperate to keep his namesake car company from going under, willing to turn to unorthodox methods of funding to save it.
“Driven,” the year’s second DeLorean-inspired film, veers from glib comedy to character-driven drama to crime thriller, but director Hamm always has his hands on the wheel. The shifts in tone generally work, and credit is also due these characters and the performances behind them. Pace is particularly strong, capturing the melancholy at the core of DeLorean and making him a sympathetic figure to both Sudeikis’ Hoffman and the audience as he pursues the American dream at all costs.
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Playing: Starts Aug. 16, AMC Universal CityWalk 19, Universal City