Driven (2 stars)

Driven

Lee Pace brings automobile icon John DeLorean to the screen with bizarre results

'You're the goddamn American Dream,' small-time crook Jim Hoffman assures his flashy new friend John DeLorean, as he suffers another setback in his bid to create a sports car straight out of science-fiction. It's a potentially fascinating, barely believable take on the biopic, which sees a desperate DeLorean, at the height of his imagination and hubris, implicated in a sizeable drug deal.

Under pressure to provide his handler (Corey Stoll) with some decent dirt, FBI informant and former drug runner Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) has a juicy criminal associate (Michael Cudlitz) in his sights when he falls in with his neighbour, the seemingly squeaky-clean DeLorean (Lee Pace). The self-styled automobile legend is riding high on the buzz surrounding his new project – the DMC DeLorean, an ultimate disappointment which would nevertheless secure its place in history doubling as Back to the Future's time machine. Installing himself as DeLorean's dogsbody, it's not long before Hoffman has the inventor's ear.

As DeLorean, Pace seems determined not to be outshone by a wig that's difficult to drag your eyes from. Strutting, squinting and drifting into scenes, he conjures a performance that's hypnotically, sometimes quite wonderfully weird. Like a supporting character from Seinfeld, he's an amusingly unfeasible figure, fond of wafty wisdom, misty-eyed anecdotes and sticking out what we're told is a recently acquired chin. With Sudeikis well-cast as the slippery Jim, both in awe of and bemused by his famous pal, theirs is an interesting mismatch.

There are other unforgettable wigs on display, not least the one hastily scrabbled on by Stoll's short-tempered FBI agent, in a film with an air of sleazy swagger that embraces its 70s and early 80s setting by going big on flamboyant prints, shoulder pads and eye-quivering colours. It's a project that finds director Nick Hamm (The Hole, Killing Bono) reteaming with screenwriter – and fellow Northern Irishman – Colin Bateman, who wrote 2016's The Journey. The pair have unearthed an intriguing-enough story, one with a stranger-than-fiction feel and a Northern Irish connection – the misfiring motor was built in Belfast.

The odd couple angle might have succeeded had the tone stayed sure. Given Pace's memorably bizarre turn, employing a more confidently comedic bent may have worked better; Driven's outré moments are certainly more enjoyable than its feeble attempts at pathos, while the film has some fun unpicking DeLorean's carefully cultivated myth. Fans of hilarious hairpieces and outlandish acting are best served by the end result; anyone else can safely give this a miss.

Limited release and on VOD from Fri 8 Nov.

Driven

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • 1h 30min
  • Directed by: Glenn Payne
  • Cast: Richard Speight Jr., Jessica Harthcock, Bill Luckett

Glenn Payne's genre mixture follows a cab driver whose night turns to be a real nightmare.

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