Cab driver movies are usually about wacky hacks and baffled riders or nutty passengers and long-suffering drivers. It's a simple formula, audiences know the drill and the only surprises we can hope for are a few laughs. Writer-director Michael Shoob tried to do something different with “Driven,” a 1996 indie finally receiving a DVD release on MTI Home Video: show the life of a cab driver realistically, with no glamour or frills. He assembled a talented cast headed by Tony (“Candyman”) Todd, Daniel (“River's Edge”) Roebuck, Xander (“Shanghai Noon”) Berkeley and Chad (“Now And Again”) Lowe.
As anyone who's spent any amount of time as a cab driver knows, the atmosphere back at the dispatcher's office is filled with subsurface jealousy about who's making the most money as well as tension between lifers who drive hacks for a living and kids who are just picking up fares until they start their "real" jobs. The script explores these on-the-job frustrations well, and, in an effective, low-key way, reveals the persistent danger that accompanies every fare. Chad Lowe's character, LeGrand, is a source of irritation for the other drivers. In love with the night, marveling at the crispness of the air, and impressed by everyone's backgrounds and aspirations, LeGrand is both a clueless babe-in-the woods and a major button pusher. He's also a symbol for the darkest part of the job, which is probably why the other drivers marginalize him and assume his poetic ramblings are fueled by drugs. The dynamic Tony Todd as Darius Pelton (perhaps a bit too larger-than-life for “Driven's” small canvas) is one man behind the wheel and quite another at home. Daniel Roebuck (who lost a disturbing amount of weight which he appears to have re-gained in subsequent parts) easily handles the role of the edgy, neurotic Dale Schneider. Roebuck seems to be a born character actor who can shift with very little effort from homicidal psychos to fumbling beginners to squeaky clean family men.
Another intriguing performance is delivered by Whip Hubley as Jason Schuyler, who never stops longing for the woman of his dreams as he watches a succession of attractive fares waltz off to dinner with well-heeled companions. Xander Berkeley, whose career has gone into an upslide since “Driven,” has too small a part for fans who are used to seeing him in much larger roles, but he still pours his famous intensity into the role of driver J.D. Johnson. Cameo appearances are supplied by Richard Riehle (so good in “Office Space”) as Leo the dispatcher and Lou Rawls as Charlie. “Driven” may have lacked a major selling point at the time of its initial release, but it's a thoughtful little effort enriched by very good performances from actors who have since gone on to splashier vehicles.
© 2003 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/11/03
US - 1996