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DRIVEN (director/writer: Michael Paradies Shoob; cinematographer: Joseph Mealey; editor: Fabienne Rawley; music: Jay Ferguson; cast: Tony Todd (Pelton), Whip Hubley (Schuyler), Daniel Roebuck (Dale Schneider), Chad Lowe (Legrand), Lou Rawls (Charlie), Lee Garlington (Marian), Eric Pierpoint (Hal), Diane DiLascio (Rachel); Runtime: 103; Trianon; 1996)
“Shoob has shown that he can create an absorbing film, despite some flaws.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

“Driven” is a brooding atmospheric tale about the adventures that some L.A. cab drivers have while working their shifts during the Christmas holidays through New Year’s Day. There is no central driving story to follow, but the theme that emerges is that despite how bad things look one must trust people and have faith. The ensemble cast does a nice job of convincingly playing cabbies and revealing their inner angst. Ultimately, their fine performances serves to lift “Driven” out of a traffic jam it could have been stuck in.

The film features the story of three cab drivers working for the inferior Red Star instead of Yellow Cab. All three are dreamers who have run into bad luck and are working at a job the public thinks of as an unskilled one. Mr. Pelton (Tony Todd) is a middle-aged black man who dreams he can get one day into a small-time real estate storefront business and reunite with his estranged son. Pelton has a son with his former white wife (Garlington), and feels rotten all over that his life seems torn apart. But he’s an imposing man whose presence demands respect from his fellow cabbies. Pelton’s been at this for ten years. Schneider (Roebuck) is Jewish. His illegal side job is working for a big-time bookie (Pierpoint), who perversely enjoys ragging him for driving a cab and not being financially successful. Schneider envisions some day of making the legal gambling scene in Las Vegas and forming his own enterprise as a gambling adviser. Schuyler (Whip Hubley) is a good-looking, nice guy who prefers to remain mysterious about his past, something that still haunts him. Schuyler becomes most excited when an attractive high-class fare (DiLascio) flirts with him and he feels they share a common fate. Schuyler opens up and tries to get her to go out with him, as he tells her not to look at him just as a lowly cabbie: “I got “poetry” in me, I’ll never be dull.” He was the most sympathetic character of the three. These three veterans of Red Star are joined by Legrand (Chad Lowe), a young starry-eyed driver who defects from the superior Yellow Cab firm and tells these losers how glad he is to be working alongside them. Schuyler rants on about what a wonderful opportunity it is to be a hack and be the eyes of the street, which both baffles and annoys the other drivers. Somehow he has the ability to make more money than the others. Lou Rawls also has a cameo as Charlie, the dispatcher whom they are in constant radio contact with.

First-time director-writer Michael Paradies Shoob, who certainly has the cabbie drivers down to a tee — he was a former hack — has created many situations that in themselves are diverting and interesting to view but as a whole the story doesn’t add up to more than some nice skits. The cabbies are shown hustling for fares at the airport, trustfully giving a ride to an old lady who doesn’t have money, going into the dangerous black ghetto for a fare, a driver being told he is going to be shot by a mugger, and the usual banter between cabbie and his fare. The film dramatized the danger always present in driving a cab through the dark nighttime Los Angeles streets, and how when a driver is in trouble all the other cabbies converge. The film seemed wooden and couldn’t make a smooth transition of uniting these diverse driver stories with a meaningful finale.

Despite its drawbacks the indie film had something to say about urban life and the men trying to earning a living there, and the ensemble cast did a good job conveying this. The good-natured Hubley seemed like a Camus anti-hero and gave the film its romantic lead. Roebuck gave the film a comic feeling to go along with the human tragedy. Todd was the soul of the film and provided a cutting dramatic performance. The idealistic Lowe, as the outsider, was a lightning rod for the other three to feed off. Shoob has shown that he can create an absorbing film, despite some flaws. The film has played the festival circuits, including: Floating Film Festival, Toronto and Sundance.

REVIEWED ON 6/23/2002 GRADE: B –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”