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Call me biased, but this has to be the DVD of the year, but maybe that's because this is my all-time favourite movie :-). The most natural and obvious comparison you'd make to this film would be towards 'The Matrix' - love it or hate it. The similarity between the two films extends only to the fact that they are both Hollywood-produced, Hong-Kong-style action flicks - or more importantly, well-made ones. Essentially, Hollywood couldn't make a HK-style action flick if its life depended on it, which is why it finally succumbed to importing the talent from overseas to finally teach them how it's actually done. In the case of 'Drive' though, hardly anyone involved has come from Hong Kong per se, but these people all had the same passion and drive (ahem) to learn what it takes to make a great HK action setpiece.

Drive
Anyone who knows anything about Hong Kong (HK) action films might not have heard of this little known Hollywood B-budget A-grade effort, but you'd be mad not to check it out simply because it's from Hollywood. There is a fascinating history behind the making of (and the people behind) this movie, but I think it'd be better for the DVD itself to tell it all to you. This R2-UK-PAL (multi-region encoded) S.E. DVD from Medusa beats the original R0-US-NTSC DVD from HBO hands down. Essentially, there were some VERY BIG FANS of this movie out there who wanted to distribute this movie in its original incarnation as envisioned by director Steve Wang, and that's exactly what the people at Medusa have accomplished with this disc.

This is the version that Steve Wang wanted you to see, but he was ultimately shafted by HBO (the original international distribution company) whereby over 20 mins of footage was deleted, the orchestral score was replaced by a simpler inferior techno-derivative, and the whole tone of the movie was changed into a simple 'mercenary' movie rather than portraying the 'personal' motivations of the characters involved. And even though this movie was voted No.1 in two film festivals (by the fans, not the critics) the distributors decided to butcher it in their own 'straight-to-video' vision.

Synopsis
The film is one of tongue very firmly placed inside of cheek, and suffice to say that this is the best non-HK-produced, HK-style fisticuffs movie you will ever see (it beats 'The Matrix' hands down in HK-style action). If I was to explain the plot of this movie to you, it'd take less time to spell out than for Angry Anderson to comb his hair - and as the guy from SBS says 'Never let the plot get in the way of a good movie'.

Drive
But if you really need to know what it's about, read on: "Malik Brody (Kadeem Hardison) is a down-on-his-luck bar-fly in San Francisco who dreams of major change, and he gets it. Toby Wong (Mark Dacascos) is on the run from a powerful Hong Kong Corporation who have installed a prototype 'bioengine' inside of him, and they want it back. After Wong kicks some ass with his superior speed and reflexes (courtesy of the aforementioned 'bioengine'), he escapes his pursuers (and the police) by kidnapping the unwitting Brody and they must 'drive' across country in order to sell his implant to a rival company in Los Angeles".

Video
The video transfer is a newly transferred 16:9 telecine image of the original negative (which is much more difficult to create video transfers of, as against the more preferred inter-positive/negative which was lost by HBO after they butchered it). Overall the quality of this transfer brilliant, and is virtually free of film-grain and any artifcats. However, there are a few scenes (and not just the 'reinstated' ones) which exhibit a slight 'colour-phasing' problem which can be distracting if you're looking for it, but it shouldn't bother anyone with a less-than-stellar TV system. Nonetheless, the imaging is miles better than that of the R0 HBO release.

Audio
Likewise the R2 audio (compared to the R0 release) is much improved upon, as the latter was nothing short of attrocious. The biggest problem with the R0 release was a major bleeding of the centre channel into the front (and sometimes back) speaker channels, but still you could barely hear the dialogue over the pounding soundtrack. This R2 DVD exhibits none of these problems as it was actually encoded from the original 6-track DTS soundtrack that the director Steve Wang himself gave special permission to use for this release, although it only exists now as an AC3 5.1 and 2.0 soundtrack. The clever use of split-channel effects, the not-too-boomy sub-woofer usage and clearly understood dialogue makes for a very pleasurable ear-candy experience.

Extras
The creators of this S.E. DVD went out of their way to provide a brilliant insight into the creation of this movie, the comprimises the producers had to make (considering it had only a budget of $3.5m AND 6.5 weeks to shoot it in), and to show how much fun the cast & crew had in making this film (as well as the DVD producers). This disc not only contains behind-the-scenes archival footage, but the DVD producers went out of their way to interview nearly all of the major people involved in the film's production 3 years after the fact, as well as getting most of the main players together for one fun-filled commentary track (which I think beats the 'Evil Dead II' commentary track by Elite, but not by much :-). You can tell that these guys had a blast at the time of filming, and had an absolute ball 'going down memory lane' once more for the commentary track. All this new supplemental material was produced at the expense of the DVD creators themselves by flying out to the U.S. of A. and getting the original production team back together.

This DVD is also the director's 'personal vision' of the movie, which contains a new (well, the original) Orchestral Score by Dave Williams, 16 mins of reinstated footage (with 6 extra deleted scenes as supplemental material), a laugh-out-loud commentary track by the stars and major players of the production, photo galleries, interviews, and a 47 min documentary entitled 'The Force Behind The Storm' with extensive behind-the-scenes footage and an hilarious clip of outtakes.

Drive
As a footnote, this DVD does not contain any selectable subtitles in either the movie or any of the extras, not even English ones. However there are a couple of non-removable Chinese-to-English translations which appear in the movie when required (and these are from scenes which were originally excised in the R0 HBO release, which in turn did not have any subtitles of its own).

Summary
This has to be the most enjoyable S.E. DVD I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing, ever - unlike many of the hyped-up 'look-at-all-these-supposed-goodies' DVDs of 'M.I.B.' and 'A Bug's Life' which I feel claim to offer heaps of extras but fail miserably when you add them all together. This S.E. DVD of 'Drive' has a lot to offer to its fans. It doesn't so much go into the technicalities of the making of the movie, rather it explores the motivations behind why the movie was produced in the first place - which was "To make the biggest kick-ass HK movie ever made on a B-grade Hollywood budget" (to quote one of the film's producers). If you loved this movie, then I have no hesitation in purchasing this R2 version right away ... just remember you'll have to convert from UK-pounds to AUS-dollars first to get it :-).

This movie was created by the many film-makers whose original inspiration was from Jackie Chan himself so you really can't go wrong with this outing - in fact I can associate at least half a dozen references to JC's various movies. There are always knockers and supporters of any movie or genre, but if you enjoy movies which are 'fun', at least hire the original version from your video store to find out what you're missing. Go buy the R2 DVD if you're a fan, and if you aren't one, then find out if you are!


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