Written by: Matt Patti | June 15th, 2020
Driven (Glenn Payne, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.
Driven is a supernatural thriller-comedy about a cab driver and a man on a quest to kill demon-like creatures. What begins as a regular cab ride turns into a mission to save the town from these supernatural beings. The film’s plot is unique and fresh, but the elements of horror and comedy don’t always mix well together. The film does many things well, but for each bright spot there is also an aspect that doesn’t work. It is as if the film takes one step forward and then immediately one back, leaving it standing still.
The beginning of the film is executed well and is by far my favorite part. Driven opens with a montage of our main lead Emerson (Casey Dillard) driving her cab around the town and picking up customers. We see her daily life as a cab driver and the type of customers she deals with, good and bad. Emerson receives an alert about a new customer and goes to pick him up. A mysterious man named Roger (Supernatural’s Richard Speight Jr.) enters her car and gives her specific instructions on where he wants to go, and that it is the first of many stops. When Emerson inquires about details, Roger is silent and won’t share any. After a strange occurrence at one of Roger’s stops, Emerson begins to feel afraid. Roger explains to her that on this specific night he must kill the evil beings in this town, and he needs her help to get him around. Emerson reluctantly agrees, and a crazy night ensues.
Unfortunately, the first act is the best part of Driven. The opening montage is humorous, and it is intriguing to see what a driver deals with from night to night. Directly afterwards, the introduction of Roger’s character and the mystery surrounding his intentions and stops is where the suspense and thrills are at their highest. Once Roger explains why he’s there and what he’s doing, most of the tension and mystery are lost. The film never again reaches the level of humor and suspense that it presents in the first act.
Our two lead characters, in Emerson and Roger, are quite likeable and relatable, and they play off each other well and have good chemistry. The performances of Dillard and Speight Jr., respectively, are both quite good. However, the writing comes off more as if the characters were performing stand-up on stage or improv in a theater class; much of the humor doesn’t land and the characters go off into long exposition-filled stories about their past that aren’t that interesting. Many jokes carry on for far too long and some of the casual conversation scenes seem too wordy and unnatural. I’m someone who enjoys dialogue-heavy films, but here I think there is almost too much dialogue, specifically dialogue that doesn’t propel the story forward and takes away from the tension and thriller aspects of the film.
The film is billed as a horror-comedy, but both elements are lacking, often due to being at odds with the one with the other. There are scenes that could be very suspenseful and thrilling that are ruined by a joke or funny occurrence. Then, there are some scenes that could be played off for laughs that aren’t funny because of the characters’ current predicament. The film and its characters seem to lack focus. This mission to destroy the evil beings is supposed to be important, but both seem to not take it seriously and would rather spend their time talking about feces. Also, these “demons for lack of a better term,” as Roger says, are not frightening at all. There is nothing specific about their look that would tell you that they’re a demon, and they act just like angry humans who are trying to fight. There’s nothing remotely scary about them.
Overall, Driven isn’t really that bad, but its conflicting tone and lack of focus hold it back from being a film that can really engage an audience. Emerson and Roger are two interesting characters that are enjoyable to see on screen, but the writing makes both seem dull and stupid at times. The film clocks in at exactly 90 minutes but feels much longer due to the long and uninteresting dialogue scenes. For a film that succeeded in achieving comedy and horror, as well as meshing the two together, in its first act, the second and third acts were very disappointing and underwhelming. The film unfolds like a car driving in circles, much like Emerson and Roger do throughout the film, never really getting anywhere.