At the behest of my editors at The Winchester Family Business, and because I admitted that it held some interest for me as a movie I might enjoy, I threw myself on this grenade and rented the film Driven from Amazon.
Director: Glenn Payne. Writer: Casey Dillard. Starring: Richard Speight, Jr. & Casey Dillard.
Above all else about this review, I want to stress first and foremost that this is a very competent film. I do not intend that as a passive-aggressive insult or damning the film with faint-praise. Sad to say, but some of the previous movies I had seen in theaters (in the before time of the long-long ago) and those of some major studios couldn’t even claim to be competent. Let me stress very much how thrilled I am that this movie actually told a story and did it very, very well. That by itself makes this worth the rental price.
Now how to describe this movie without spoiling anything….
Did you ever see the Supernatural season 11 episode's “Baby” which showed an entire episode from the perspective of the car? Imagine that episode, expanded into an hour and a half movie – only with Supernatural's Trickster and the movie’s writer as the two main stars. They even spend the movie fighting demons (for lack of a better word).
Now I loved – adored - that episode. So, again, I was a bit of a sucker for Driven as the entire movie stays with the car and is viewed from its perspective, making it pretty unique and memorable, without being overly gimmicky. A lot of reviewers have compared it to Collateral and Supernatural – both fair comparisons of it.
As usual with my reviews, let’s get the negatives out of the way first.
I’ll be honest, the negatives about this film are of an extremely nit-picky variety that I doubt would be of any interest to anyone save the writer. They in no way detract from the film and by the time you reach that level of nitpicking, there’s no telling if it was the director or editor at fault. For example, the ending is really solid, but there is one tiny touch that I think could have been added just to give it a better catharsis. But endings can be tough and it’s easy for many writers to go way over the top with them. Then again, that touch could have been in the script, and lost on the day of the shoot, or in the edit. Likewise, at the start of the film our protagonist finds a bag. It's payoff is... acceptable, but I think a little bit more could have been done with it for as much screen time as it takes up.
Likewise, there is a gag in the film that I would say is ok, but could have been tightened up more in the script. The humor really dances the line between being a funny running gag, to running the joke into the ground, meaning whether it is a negative or a positive will really depends on your mood and tastes. It isn’t too cringe-worthy (except when cringe is the joke) but for me, a few jokes were duds or a tried a little too hard. Like the saying goes, death is easy, comedy is hard. When you're writing, what has you crying with laughter over your keyboard in the evening, can bore you when you reread in the morning. This appears to be Casey’s full length freshmen movie and she had me smiling sometimes, even if I didn’t always chuckle.
By far the movie’s biggest flaw is its title. There were two other movies named “Driven” released in 2018, and a TV show with that title apparently released in 2020, meaning finding this film can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. I’d love to sit down with others who have seen this movie and see if we can come up with a better title. “The Passenger”? “One Last Ride”? “We Pride Ourselves on Customer Service”? “Friends (for lack of a better term)”? The title is technically apt, but just too generic. I’d maybe look into a title using the car in it somewhere but I’ve honestly forgotten what its make and model was – which is my final complaint: I’m somewhat disappointed the car didn’t have more character.
The good? Everything.
Performances are solid with Richard Speight, Jr always a delight to watch as he starts off the movie creepy and is as lovable as ever by the end of it. Casey Dillard as our reluctant protagonist does a good job playing someone flawed but likable.
Again, I want to stress how so very rare nowadays this seems as too many writers apparently believe that "asshole" equals "compelling." By the end of the movie I wanted to see more of these two. They weren't perfect or flawless - they were human, just like protagonists should be.
I loved the unusual perspective of the film and the way it put a new spin on an otherwise somewhat cliche tale. The humor is generally low key and spaced out so as not to overstay its welcome.
The key for a lot of these stories is an ancient text or prophecy having words or phrases that have clever reinterpretations in the modern era. These movies live or die with how clever the word play and pay offs are. In this regard, I can give the movie a hearty A+. Again, the movie absolutely nails what it must to succeed. I was thrilled that the movie’s pacing felt right without it overindulging in the “long shot” that so many indie and “artistic” films do.
Driven is dependent far more upon tension and less upon jump scares, though there are a few in the movie that are well earned.
Once in awhile I did wonder if this movie had lines and references specifically made for Supernatural fans. For one example, at the 4:50 mark in the movie, Exposition Radio (tm) says that a body found in the park:
I don't know if it was intentional, but it struck me as humorous that this person's first name is the same as Richard's Supernatural character, and the last name the same as the director's.
So, if you enjoy solid, creative movies about meeting people, making friends and fighting the forces of darkness, give this one a shot. Here is a list of where you can rent or watch it. Go behind the scenes of Driven and learn more about its origin, working with Richard, how it was filmed, and much more in my exclusive video interview with its director Glenn Payne, and screenwriter/lead actress, Casey Dillard.
Images courtesy of Driven's IMDB page.
Check out my prior reviews of Supernatural's episodes, tie-in novels and graphic novels, plus interviews with Supernatural book authors to get more behind the scenes scoop on Supernatural!