Firstly, I’d just like to start off by saying thanks to Chris Clare over at October Coast PR for allowing me early access to an online screener of the new Horror/Thriller/Comedy from Uncork’d Entertainment called “Driven”, Written by Casey Dillard (who also plays the lead character) and Directed by Glenn Payne. Driven is a contained little mix of thrills and laughs and centers around rideshare driver/wannabe stand-up-comedian, Emerson Graham (Dillard) whose seemingly ordinary night on the job takes a wild detour after picking up a mysterious stranger (played by Richard Speight Jr.) whose required to make a number of stops pertaining to a family mission. The film also stars Jessica Harthcock and Leah Hudspeth.
I’ve been receiving a bunch of new content recently from the team over at October Coast, some good, some not so good. Either way I’m always appreciative of the on-going networking and the opportunities to check out new films here at AdamTheMovieGod. Dead Leaf Productions and Writer/Actor, Casey Dillard bring us this somewhat new take on the now-familiar plot device of rideshare drivers. Over the last few years, I’ve seen “Ryde”, “Night Fare”, “Rideshare” and a number of others where the results were more often than not, mixed. Driven has a simple setup that involves minimal characters (really just the two) and takes place in a controlled setting – a smart blueprint for the world of low-budget film making (so take notes people). Although it’s a film that is conceived on the cheap (most noticeably with its driving sequences) it’s still smartly done. DP, Michael Williams has spent the better part of a decade learning the craft and biding his time in short films and his developed capabilities are certainly on display in the likes of Driven. The framing is neat, the shot choices are simple, but it’s perhaps his lovely use of red’s and blue’s in the lighting during the third act that ultimately won me over. In addition, the audio track is clear and Matthew Steed provides a curious piece of synth and flute score at the beginning of the film which really stands out.
The key factors making Driven a solid little piece of indie film making rest with both Dillard’s screenplay and her overall screen presence. In a way, Emerson is your everyday girl but she’s also quirky enough to be interesting and more than relatable. She’s a people person at heart, a girl with a dream whose just trying to make ends meet. Dealing with the fallout of a breakup and stuck working a job in which her passengers don’t care much for the whole chit-chat. Her lack of filter leads to some funny moments especially when she comes into contact with Roger (Speight). There’s a preliminary montage sequence in which we see her awkwardly interacting with passengers but then things really get interesting once the man on a mission enters the fold. Speight has had a substantial amount of experience having appeared in everything from “Independence Day, and “HBO’s “Band Of Brothers”, through to TV’s “Supernatural”. At times Driven even starts to feel a lot like an episode of the latter. For the most part, the dynamic between the pair is entertaining and Dillard rises to the occasion during a surprisingly emotional release. It’s best not to overthink the supernatural aspect of the film too much.
The biggest criticism I have of Driven is that following the initial story arc set up at the end of the first act, there really aren’t any surprises and the progression proves to be a rather predictable one – albeit a fairly fun romp. Because the film is one-note in terms of its presentation and almost singular environment, interest levels can wane from time to time despite the runtime being about right. I think the adversary of the piece needed to be felt more, or have had some kind of identity, something to make it all a little more suspenseful. I thought it lacked credibility when Emerson failed to express that proverbial wtf moment that inevitably comes when a random situation such as this one strikes – she’s way too calm. Nevertheless, Driven turned out to be a solid little entry into the independent logline of 2020 in these crazy times. This being Dillard’s first crack at a feature-length screenplay, the results are much better than one might expect. The technical elements are all quite good, the characters charm you, and the two lead performances, in particular, come together nicely. Driven will be available through Uncork’d Entertainment on VOD, Amazon Prime, and other various platforms from June 16th! Until then, you can check out the official trailer below!
Driven – 6/10