DRIVEN Movie poster | ©2020 Uncork’d Entertainment

DRIVEN Movie poster | ©2020 Uncork’d Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Richard Speight Jr., Casey Dillard
Writer: Casey Dillard
Director: Glenn Payne
Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Release Date: June 16, 2020

 The new movie DRIVEN, being released on June 16, 2020, should not be confused with the 2018 Jason Sudeikis/Lee Pace starrer of the same name about John DeLorean, or the other 2018 DRIVEN, about an out-of-control race car driver who falls in love, or the other race car driver movie, also called DRIVEN, that starred Sylvester Stallone and was released in 2001, or the DRIVEN TV series from 2018, or … In other words, somebody should probably put the brakes on the use of DRIVEN as a title for a few decades.

This issue aside, the new DRIVEN is an agreeable two-hander with a curious convention: it is shot almost entirely from inside a rideshare car. When the action leaves the vehicle, the camera watches through the windows. The exceptions are a few shots of the car, looking at it from outside. This has the effect of making DRIVEN feel like a somewhat bonkers stage play.

Emerson Graham (Casey Dillard, who also wrote the screenplay) is a mostly amiable driver for Ferry, an Uber/Lyft-type service, in suburban Mississippi. She works on material for her stand-up comedy act between fares. We get a montage of the types of passengers Emerson has – teens out on the town, a man curious about the electric car (borrowed from Emerson’s sister), a wary elderly woman, and so on. Then Emerson picks up Roger (Richard Speight Jr.), who wants to make a whole lot of different stops, and seems increasingly agitated after each one.

Finally, circumstances force Roger to confess that he’s hunting “demons – for want of a better word,” who are possessing people around town for reasons pertaining to Roger’s family history. Given some action we see outside the car that Emerson doesn’t notice, we’re much quicker to believe Roger than she is. Emerson eventually gets proof that Roger isn’t delusional. She decides to help him, but they’ve both got so much personal baggage that their quest is threatened as much by their internal issues as by supernatural malevolence.

There’s a pleasingly experimental quality to DRIVEN. The focus on Emerson and Roger, and their nonsexual proximity to each other, keeps things intimate. At the same time, we’re almost continually moving from place to place, director Glenn Payne takes pains to keep the car look roomy, and there’s outside action, so we never feel claustrophobic. Filmmakers on a budget, take note: one can surmise the DRIVEN folks saved a bundle in location fees and permits by seldom removing their equipment from the vehicle. It’s ingenious.

Both screenwriter Dillard and Speight bring an innate likability to their performances, even when a couple of recurring jokes get hit a little too hard. Speight plays a recurring character (and directs episodes of) SUPERNATURAL, and it’s easy to imagine the entirety of DRIVEN fitting into that show’s universe. The film is dexterous, has mythology that suits its purposes, cares about its characters, and takes itself seriously enough to merit its running time, without turning too pompous or too silly. It’s smart genre filmmaking, tailored to a small dollar amount.

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