For years, various prospective John DeLorean movies languished in development Hell, but the DeLorean car achieved lasting big-screen immortality in Back to the Future. Its designer was well pleased. As cinematic legacies go, it is tough to beat Robert Zemeckis’s time travel classic, but it is still entertaining to revisit the happier, more prosperous Reagan years when Nick Hamm’s Driven opens today in New York.
Even before he started his own eponymous motor company, John DeLorean was one of the few auto executives average people like Jim Hoffman had heard of. Hoffman was basically a likable lowlife, who wriggled out of a narcotics bust by agreeing to work as a paid informant for the FBI. As fate would have it, Hoffman and his family moved into the more modest ranch house across the street from DeLorean’s luxurious McMansion. They didn’t exactly become friends, but they started hanging, sensing they could each benefit from the other.
Of course, Hoffman would eventually drop a dime on his neighbor, as we can tell from the in media res on-the-witness-stand framing structure. The question is—was DeLorean really and truly set-up (“entrapped,” according to his legal defense) or did he have it coming? If anyone ought to know, it should be Hoffman, but he sounds pretty confused under cross-examination.
Although Hamm and screenwriter Colin Bateman clearly suggest DeLorean made some grave errors in judgement, they let him off pretty easy. In contrast, Sheena M. Joyce & Don Argott’s hybrid doc Framing John DeLorean essentially gives him a pass on the coke charges, but nails him to the wall for the subsequent embezzlement case.
Regardless, Hamm undeniably has the better DeLorean in his star, Lee Pace, who wildly outshines the shticky Alec Baldwin as the disgraced would be auto magnate. Commanding and mercurial, we can easily see why his workers are always wiling follow his unsteady lead.
Jason Sudeikis is surprisingly but convincingly schlubby as Hoffman. It would be quite the stretch to call him an everyman, unless you know plenty of part-time drug mules eager for a promotion. Plus, Judy Greer impressively over-achieves (again), turning the thankless looking role of Ellen Hoffman into one of the smarter and sexier characters in the film.
The DeLorean presented by Hamm and Bateman is arrogant and yes, “driven,” but he is also the son of a problematic father. Arguably, he is somewhat akin to an Ayn Rand hero—the kind that take pride in the companies they built, so they aren’t about to let anyone take it away. Pace’s DeLorean also seems genuinely concerned about the workers in his Northern Ireland factory. It is all quite diverting, even for those who know the DeLorean story, chapter and verse. If you are in the mood for a breezy true crime melodrama then definitely check out the low-stress Driven when it opens today (8/16) in New York, at the Cinema Village.