The Worst Movie Ever Made
One of these days – probably in the month of May – I’m going to do a post about racing movies. There have been several of them made over the years – some better than others; but almost all of them have, at least, some redeeming quality about them if you look close enough. But we’ll save that discussion for another time. In Wednesday’s comment section, I was reminded by commenter "Billy The Skink" that there is one racing movie that has no redeeming qualities. It was so bad that it transcends not just racing movies as being bad. I consider it to be the worst movie ever made. Period. If you’ve seen it, there is no doubt that you know which movie I’m talking about – Driven.
This abomination was written and produced by Sylvester Stallone, who also thought he should be the perfect actor to star in it as an Indy car driver– never mind that he was fifty-five at the time of release. Stallone had planned to base his script off of Formula One, but he failed to get the desired level of cooperation from the F1 teams. It was then that he turned to CART, who saw this as a chance to showcase their series.
Stallone and company followed CART around through the summer of 2000 getting actual footage from races. Too bad he didn’t use more of it. Instead, Stallone chose to treat the few paying customers who actually watched it, to countless shots of race cars being launched from ramps. One shot of a flying Reynard would have been more than enough, but these over-the-top effects permeated the entire movie.
To me, it was a toss-up if I’d prefer to watch what looked like Maurίcio Gugelmin’s car soar through the air than some of the worst attempts at acting I can recall. The only thing that exceeded the bad acting was how lame the storyline was.
In a very brief nutshell, rising driving star Jimmy Bly is winning too much to the liking of the established champ, Beau Brandenburg (not to be confused with Beaux Barfield). Brandenburg figures his fiancé is to blame for his recent slump, so he dumps her and miraculously starts winning again. Jimmy’s owner – the wheelchair bound Carl Henry – is concerned that Jimmy’s performance is sliding. He therefore removes Jimmy’s teammate, Memo Moreno (not to be confused with Memo Gidley or Roberto Moreno) and puts retired driver Joe Tanto in the cockpit to serve as a mentor for Jimmy. Oh, by the way – Joe’s ex-wife is now married to Memo and Jimmy hooks up with Brandenburg’s ex-fiancé. It gets worse.
There are team orders galore from the maniacal owner Henry. Then, in one of the most ridiculous scenes to ever hit the silver screen, Memo’s car goes flying (as all race cars do) into a trackside lake and lands upside down. While battling for the championship, Jimmy drives off-course and drives his car over to the lake and hops out to save his fellow driver. If that wasn’t enough – Brandenburg does the same. So now we have the two championship contenders out of their cars attempting to rescue a colleague. Sort of makes you wonder what happened to the CART Safety Team. With flying cars being so common, surely they planned for cars occasionally soaring into the lake.
Unfortunately, the insanity doesn’t stop there. The championship goes down to the final race of the season – at Belle Isle, of all places. More cars go flying and the two championship contenders, Jimmy and Brandenburg, race neck and neck to the last lap (of course). Then, as they are both approaching the finish line, Jimmy channels his inner Luke Skywalker in the obligatory slow-motion sequence, and Jimmy somehow manages to inch past Brandenburg, who mysteriously starts spinning in circles out of control at the line. The movie comes to a merciful end with our heroes, Jimmy Bly and Joe Tanto swigging Champaign in celebration.
Say what you will about Robin Miller, but in the early stages of production, he was getting a pretty good idea that this was going to be a dud and started giving us warnings. I didn’t listen. I had hoped against hope that he was wrong and that for the first time ever, Sylvester Stallone would make a movie that wasn’t incredibly cheesy. I had hoped that open-wheel racing had found a vehicle to bring in new fans. My hopes were dashed.
Driven opened in theaters in April of 2001. I knew that if I wanted to see it, I’d better go quickly. I took my son Trey, who was eleven at the time, to go see it the second night it was in town. We practically had the theater to ourselves. Halfway through the movie – we did have it to ourselves, as the smart ones all had gotten up and left. We stayed until the bitter end, losing two hours out of my life that I’ll never get back.
As we drove back home, I told Trey that if he lives to be a hundred, he’ll never see a worse movie than the one he just saw. Even an eleven year-old knew how over-the-top the “action” scenes were.
This train wreck starred Sylvester Stallone as the once-retired Joe Tanto. Burt Reynolds played the villainous car-owner who was mysteriously confined to a wheelchair. Perhaps Stallone had already decided to base a character off of Frank Williams, when Driven was going to take place in Formula One. Jimmy Bly was played by Kip Pardue, who was coming off of a decent performance in Remember The Titans. Unfortunately, Driven killed whatever professional momentum Pardue had enjoyed. His career never recovered. He went on to star in such memorable films as Loggerheads and The Wizard of Gore. Most drivers that made cameo appearances have since retired from racing, but Tony Kanaan is an active driver who can list his appearance in Driven as one of his lesser moments.
This cinematic masterpiece was directed by Renny Harlin, who is best known for…OK, he’s not really known for anything. But other credits to his name are Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea. But I must correct one thing I said earlier. Harlin is actually known for something. He directed Cutthroat Island, which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the worst box-office flop ever. Driven was a commercial and critical flop, as well. It grossed only $32 million against a $72 million budget. Ouch!
Which was worse? The plot? The script? The acting? Take your pick. If I’m not allowed to pick “all of the above”, then I’m going with the action footage of cars constantly flying through the air. After about the tenth one, I got just a little numb to it.
I’m not sure how long Driven remained in theaters, but it wasn’t long. If it ever made it to HBO, Showtime, Netflix or the WB Network – I never noticed. In fact, I haven’t watched it since that dreadful night in April of 2001; although I did see a copy of it for sale in Big Lots not too long ago. For $3, I could have added it to my permanent DVD collection. I passed.
Am I being too harsh? Is there anyone out there that actually liked Driven? Maybe it was the mood I was in, but my one viewing of Driven has me convinced that it was the worst movie ever made.