Martial Arts
Drive
.
Dir: Steve Wang
Star: Mark Dacascos, Kadeem Hardison, John Pyper Ferguson, Brittany Murphy
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1997
Format: DVD R2
'

After stowing away on a freighter ship from Hong Kong, Toby Wong (Mark Dacascos) is given a heavily armed reception upon his arrival in the United States as he is met by bounty hunter and all round bad guy Vic Madison (John Pyper-Ferguson). Madison having being hired by a mysterious Asian corporation to find Toby and a valuable piece of merchandise which he has with him. The merchandise in question is a "Bio-Engine" which is a prototype machine which once surgically implanted into a subject augments his/her abilities. Evading capture aboard the ship with a rampant display of lightning reflexes and awsome power, Toby escapes to the streets. Only to be tracked down soon after by Madison in a small bar which quickly becomes a battle ground as Toby despatches more of his would-be captors and saves a down and out called Malik (Kadeem Hardison) who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Malik begrudgungly agrees to help Toby to reach Los Angeles in order to collect a 5 million Dollar pay check for his prototype "bio-engine". The unlikely duo hit the asphalt for a road trip they won't forget. Constantly dodging bullets and the tenacious Madison, Malik and Toby gradually learn more about each other as they fight to stay alive and are catapulted toward the high octane fianle.

Before the overwhelming success of The Matrix. Drive broke the new ground and with the unique eye and directorial skill of Steve Wang it successfully combined the two cinematic styles of Hong Kong with Hollywood to stunning effect. Steve Wang along with his friend and former collaborator Koichi Sakamoto took the story by Scott Phillips and infused it with their own Hong Kong cinema induced ideas. Both men renowned in their fields successfully re-invented The Guyver for the U.S audiences, and took the Manga character through 2 movies and spurred a new interest in Asian comics for the younger generations. So their talents had worked well before and with Drive they had a bigger budget and more scope to indulge their individual talents. The fight choreography of Koichi Sakamoto and his Alpha Stunt Team is on the whole quite breathtaking and all superbly captured on film by the intuitive eye of Steve Wang. As there was renewed interest in Jackie Chan in the USA at the time the movie was made (due to his making films in America at the time) there are a couple of fight sequences which are very " Chan-esque" in their use of comedic Kung-Fu. The sequences do work well and satisfactorily serve the buddy buddy element of the film along with the glib dialogue of Kadeem Hardison.

At last a film where you can appreciate the talents of Mark Dacascos . For too long he has been in roles where his lifetime of martial arts experience has counted for little and his skill has been stifled. Drive is a stunning showcase for some of his ample talent ranging from the intricate martial arts and acrobatic action to the heavier and more serious acting. It is almost like he was let off his leash for this movie and he revels in it, providing some breathtaking and spectacular fight sequences which leave you stunned and reaching for the slow motion on the remote control. This guy really shines when he is he permitted which has seldom happened so far in his career and as well as being a former martial arts world champion he can act as well. Although I have to admit that it would be his martial arts that would encourage me to see his films.

Kadeem Hardison kind of lets rip a little during the film, and it is evident that much of his dialogue is ad-libbed, mainly due to the humour but it is damned funny. In his first "action role" Hardison handles the action well even managing to find time to act amongst his stand-up routine. I feel that Kadeem Hardison was very underrated and now that he has stepped out from the shadow of Eddie Murphy you can see how talented he really is and I for one am looking forward to seeing him in more movies. Decidedly quirky if not a little bizarre supporting performance by Brittany Murphy as Deliverence the girl from the motel, but she works well and offers a different perspective to the story. Her on-screen chemistry with Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison is good and besides being a little distracting at times (in a psychologically worrying kind of way) she is watchable and manages to fit integrally into the rapport of the two main leads.

Excellent performance from John Pyper-Ferguson as Madison, the unlucky bad guy charged with acquiring Toby's Bio-Engine. Madison's misfortune is difficult not to laugh at due to the fact that he really is quite inept when it comes to Toby Wong. Madison's right hand man "Hedgehog" Tracey Walter is at times ridiculously comical but he plays a good part and offers more balance to the Madison character. An occasionally chilling performance by James Shigeta as the obsessive Mr. Lau and his screen time is used to minimal but good effect.

Good performances all around really and surprisingly enough even from the "Asian hearthrob" and male model Masaya Kato as another one of the bad guys. A notable cameo appearance from David Hayter as a cop, going from the starring role of Sean Barker in Steve Wang's other big film The Guyver to a mere "guest" appearance as he steers his career toward his screenwriting.

Drive Won the Minami Toshiko (critics) Award at the 1997 Yubari International Fantastic Adventure Film Festival in Japan and also won the 1st place award for Best International Film at the 3rd Annual Fant-Asia Film Festival in Montreal, 1998. Yet Drive remains a virtually undiscovered classic which is a great shame for such a fantastic movie.

Despite one or two slightly sub-standard CGI effects Drive pulls it all off and is a highly charged, kinetic and electrifying high octane action fest. Which adequately displays the admirable traits of a fine piece of asian action cinema combined with hollywood vigour and a Managa-esque perspective in the form of the bio booster type story. Explosions, gunfights, martial arts and a good story this film has it all. I am inclined to agree with what a fellow movie reviewer once said of this film which is "The Best Action film not made in Hong Kong". A must see!

Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD
Picture 2:35.1 Anamorphic Spot on! crisp image
Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital Excellent
Features Entertaining, sometimes surreal and occasionally flatulent commentary track by Steve Wang, Mark Dacascos, Kadeem Hardison and Koichi Sakamoto
Features Theatrical trailer
3 sets of photo galleries; Production, Behind the scenes and some Candid shots.
5 small interview featurettes with Mark Dacascos, Steve Wang, Wyatt Weed, Koichi Skamoto and Kadeem Hardison.
"The Force Behind The Storm" behind the scenes documentary
Series of deleted scenes and a few out-takes
Cast & crew biographies
Verdict One of the early releases from Hong Kong Legends the disc has good sound and picture quality in addition to some worthwhile extras. This is of course the Directors Cut of the film so it features an extra 16 minutes of footage. On the whole a very good disc

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home