By Naomi Roper
All I know about the DeLorean car was that it wasn’t very good and that Marty McFly needed it to go 88 miles per hour in order to go Back to the Future.
Driven, an engaging, oddball biopic from director Nick Hamm and writer Colin Bateman, covers the rise and fall of John De Lorean & the completely insane drug scandal he got caught up in.
Our entry point into DeLorean’s world is not the man himself but Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) a cheerfully scuzzy soul who we first meet being arrested by Special Agent Tisa (Corey Stoll). Much to the horror of Hoffman’s wife (Judy Greer) the FBI find vast quantities of drugs hidden on the plane Hoffman was about to take on a family vacation. Hoffman wheedles out of his arrest on a technicality but finds himself on the hook as an FBI informant.
Set up in a fancy Californian mansion by the FBI Hoffman meets his new neighbours -John DeLorean (Lee Pace) and his beautiful model wife. DeLorean bonds with Hoffman over the old car he is restoring & the two become unlikely friends. DeLorean’s life long dream is about to be realised – he’s going to revolutionise the American motoring industry by going into production with a car he designed that will bear his name. However, the resulting car is beset with problems and with DeLorean losing money hand over fist he needs help to keep his dream alive. Enter Hoffman, now fully embedded in DeLorean’s inner circle who sees DeLorean’s money troubles as a way to get rid of the FBI and Hetrick in one stroke. All they need is one big drug deal….
Part courtroom drama, part buddy comedy, part biopic Driven is a surprisingly fun watch. Biopics can be rather serious and dreary affairs best suited for Sunday afternoon viewing but Driven keeps your attention (despite an occasionally sedate pace) because the central story is just so weird and engaging that I was convinced they made it up (they didn’t – DeLorean was charged in 1982 with conspiring to smuggle $24 million of coke into the US). I mean why on earth did a straight-laced man decide that doing a massive coke deal was the best way out of his money woes? It’s so crazy that of course it’s true!
Sudeikis is on career-best form as Hoffman. Hoffman is a sleazy wannabe criminal but in Sudeikis’ hands, he is never once unlikeable. We know Hoffman is not the best of people but we’re super on his side anyway. Driven is at its heart a tale of Hoffman’s unlikely relationship with DeLorean and he and Lee Pace are quite the striking pairing. Pace (complete with silver fox wig) plays DeLorean as a curious fish, arrogant, cold and childish. He’s a genius that hates to lose, cheating at chess and throwing a tantrum like a toddler when Hoffman bests him at table tennis. It’s a wholly uneven friendship – DeLorean has the money, power and connections and Hoffman has a rented mansion and the FBI on his back. Physically Pace towers over Sudeikis with Hoffman literally looking up to DeLorean throughout the film. Hoffman can’t help but be jealous of DeLorean’s dazzling life. Pace brings out the childlike vulnerability in DeLorean which leaves him wide open to being used by Hoffman and Hoffman’s ambivalence over betraying his friend leads to some of the best (and most touching) scenes in the film.
Elsewhere there are strong performances from Michael Cudlitz as the drug dealer Hoffman fell foul of and Erin Moriarty (Starlight in The Boys) as his trashy girlfriend who runs riot at one of DeLorean’s parties. Corey Stoll (who is way past due for a lead role on film worthy of his considerable talents) effortlessly steals the entire film as the FBI agent assigned to Hoffman. Judy Greer is…Judy Greer and for the love of god give this woman a role that isn’t “worried mother/wife to douchebag husband”. Has Hollywood not heard her vocal work in Archer? She’s completely hilarious and deserves to be more than just “the wife/the mother/the ex”. I really liked her in Ant-Man and the Wasp where she got to do a little more than just be the nagging ex (the especially annoying thing about her role in Ant-Man is that she is entirely in the right but is also the person trying to stop Paul Rudd from seeing his super adorable daughter and therefore she has zero chance of the audience being on her side). Give this woman a fricking decent role already!
The production design is a cornucopia of bad taste early 80’s designs with costumes to match (I especially liked Hoffman’s endless array of terrible brown flares and Stoll’s “undercover” Hawaiian shirts) It’s a riot for the eyes.
While its subject matter is niche, strong performances and a curiously odd central tale elevate Driven way above standard biopic fare.
Driven is released by Vertigo Releasing in UK and Irish cinemas and digital on 8 November.