The relatively unknown Drive was the first release on the excellent HKL title and for that alone it deserves a review. The star of Drive is Mark Dacascos (Toby Wong), the Hawaiian born martial artist, in possibly his best known role. Since this movie he has gone on to do Brotherhood of the Wolf and was best known before for his role as Eric Draven in the Crow TV series. His co-star is Kadeem Harrison (Malik Brody) probably best known for his role as Junior in White Men Can't Jump. John Pyper-Ferguson plays the main baddy (Vic Madison), who seems to be the bastard son of James Woods and John Lennon? And had previous roles in The Adventures of Brisco County Junior TV Series and Ski School. Brittany Murphy puts in possibly the most annoying role in the history of cinema as Deliverance and both James Shigeta and Masaya Kato (both later worked on Brother) put in unexceptional performances in this limp kung fu action flick.
As you may have guessed this is a pretty weak cast and this mediocrity seems to run through all areas of Drive. The editing and directing are absolutely hopeless, and although the director (Steve Wang) should have a yearly festival named after him, this is not because of his directing but purely because he was the designer of the Predator. The only semi-decent area is provided by Koichi Sakamoto and his stunt team who put in an impressive performance (by US, not HK, standards).
Buddies in a car
Vic and Hedgehog
The annoying Deliverance
He looks BAD!
Police, Wheels, Story, Meals
The plot is another of these 'Kung Fu fighter' meets 'gangster rapper
/ ghetto boy / copper with attitude' buddy yarns. There seems to be a
contract clause in every non-American who wants to work in Hollywood that
they have to work with a light comedy partner. See for example Jet Li,
Jackie Chan, and Takeshi Kitano working with Isiah Washington, Chris Tucker
and Omar Epps respectively. This is a poor film about: revenge for my
girlfriend's murder - super bionic fighter - hostage and kidnapper become
partners and buddies - baddies very poor fighters - good guys always win.
The only saving grace for the plot is that Toby is purely motivated by
getting $5m for an implant in his chest and he quite happily kills bad
guys rather than just knocking them out of disarming them. It is rather
refreshing to see the good guy who is motivated by such superficial ends
and actually takes out many of the bad guys to prevent them coming back
later for another fight / car chase / shoot out etc. It is predictable;
I will say more about the length and scene selection later, but the plot
fails to entertain or get the balance between action, character development,
plot development and light humour. In fact, it positively fails.
There are some, who will watch this and think that it is exciting and innovative in places, but may I assure anyone who has watched any pre-Rush Hour Jackie, you will certainly spot the pure theft of moves and stunts in this movie. Where shall I begin?
There is a lot lot more which has dubious originalilty. But it is not just the individual moves and concepts; rather the whole style of fighting is trying to make Mark look like Jackie. I always say that you should innovate, not imitate. The fighting incorporates loads of props and has the odd light-hearted moment but it looks very awkward and whenever they're struggling to stretch out the fighting by another few minutes they get Mark to do some acrobatic somersaults and back flips. I'm sure this is entertaining if you are a collector of the Russian Female Acrobatic Team videos, but it looks ridiculous in this.
Drive's other points of note include the arm amputation with a chainsaw by Kadeem on the bad guy, which is entirely out of sync with the rest of this movie and whilst Jackie tries to make light-hearted flicks for the whole family, this 5 sec moment suddenly removes any hope of a young audience getting to see it and makes it automatically an 18? If a film is going for ultra violence, which HK movies regularly do, there's no point doing it in half measures, much like Mark's punches it doesn't follow through?
This is disc from HKL shows a commitment from the very beginning to produce more than just a film on DVD. This has a high quality extras section and a well restored print (2.35:1) and a crisp audio track (DD5.1). This is the original director's cut of the movie which is 16 minutes longer than the cut and re-scored US version from OFG. There are interviews, a retrospective feature, biographies for the main roles, photo galleries, trailers and an audio commentary. Possibly the most remarkable part is in the deleted scenes section. There are 6 different scenes and I am truly bemused why some of them have been cut. Some of the cut scenes give some actual character depth to the cardboard cut-outs on display, why these were cut rather than some of the dross in the film is baffling.
As much as I want those deleted scenes in the movie, I have to say this
movie is too long already, by about 10 - 15 mins. I do not hold the view
that all kung fu films should be under 100 mins, for example I think Once
Upon a Time in China is the right length, but you need a gripping plot
and solid acting interspersed with some great fight sequences. Sadly,
Drive has none of the three. Having said that, this is still an important
disc historically as it is the beginning of a label which became the world
leader in well under 2 years, plus it does have a superb extras section.
I wanted to finish this review with a witty pun at the end like 'Driven
to despair' or 'It will Drive you crazy', but I like to reserve my precocious
comedy for classic movies, not this Drivel (get it!)
Mark after fisting someone