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Drive
Film
Toby Wong (Mark Dacascos) is a wanted man. With-in his chest beats a prototype body enhancement. He is a super-human killing machine, only, like most good guy super-human killing machines, he has regrets. Deciding he was done with killing for “Red China”, Toby ran. He found a company in the United States that has offered him cold hard cash for the technology in his chest, and is on his way to collect. Unfortunately, there are dozens of Chinese hit men and hillbilly bounty hunters hot on his trail. To insure his survival, he commandeers Malik Brody (Kadeem Hardison) and his car to assist him on his quest, promising a sizable cut of the profits. And thus, a chase is born.

Drive
Sometimes a movie comes along that really can be summed up by the lazy critical blurbs attached to it. Drive really is “A riot” and “A blast and a half”. The choreography is “Inspired”, and the cinematography “Ultra-Slick”. “If you live for action”, one really shouldn’t “settle for anything less.” Drive is a film that deserves a bigger audience, especially of those who love kung fu.

Drive seals all of its plot holes, and maintains that oh-so-important suspension of disbelief, by taking place in an unspecified near future. How can this guy fight this way? It’s the future! How was the American company planning on removing the robo-heart without killing Toby? It’s the future! How can it take only hours to fly from Hong Kong to L.A.? It’s the future, dammit! The super-human fighter, cursed with a history of violence, forlorn and pursued is by no means an original concept, but once Drive, if you pardon the pun, kicks into gear, the plot matters only to bridge the next action sequence.

Drive
Fortunately, the writing isn’t bad either. Toby and Malik’s banter is actually pretty funny. Lets back up and read that last statement again. I just stated that I found Kadeem Hardison funny. That, my friends, is saying a lot. Leading man Mark Dacascos is so enjoyable as the meta-human butt kicker with a heart of gold, that one wonders how he’s managed to not infiltrate the Hollywood mainstream yet. I’d hire him. The major villains are all enjoyably evil, while still finding the time to be charming and clever. The supporting cast also ain’t too bad, and includes a young Brittany Murphy as a painfully adorable hotel clerk, with a semi-insane tendency to get herself involved in the action.

The kung fu sequences are thrilling without becoming numbing, and in fact successfully get better as the film progresses. Though every action movie cliché is easily accounted for, Drive is somehow so lighthearted and lovable that it transcends any real critical complaints. I’d say it was easily better than any of Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s Hollywood output, which consists mostly of boring films punctuated by a few moments of slightly inspired action. Director Steve Wang has a pretty entertaining little filmography going for himself, including the somewhat underrated Guyver (keep an eye out for Guyver 2 and Metal Gear Solid star David Hayter) live action movies. I can’t help but wonder how much better Underworld could have been had he been behind the camera, rather than simply delegated the creature designs.

Drive
Video
This region free, PAL version of Drive is easily the best available, simply because it has an anamorphic picture and is an uncut version of the film. The region 1, NTSC version is presented in Pan and Scan, and is cut by twelve minutes. Medusa Pictures has done well with this transfer, though I suppose the colours could stand a little more saturation, as it would add to the comic book ambiance. There are times during the finale that the décor would have benefited from a little overkill. The only real shortcoming is the sharpness, which occasionally verges on blurry.

Audio
Though the soundtrack reveals some of the well-hidden budget constraints, this Dolby Digital 5.1 track is still very aggressive. Directional effects are balanced, and dialogue is clear. There is little or no audio distortion. Though this isn’t the most impressive track I’ve ever heard, it more than gets the job done. A special note is made on the box and during the documentary feature that this version includes the original Dave Williams score as part of the directors cut. This is the only place it is available.

Drive
Extras
The virtual plethora of features is headed by a semi-novice, but ultimately entertaining and informative documentary entitled “The Force Behind the Strom”. The nearly fifty minute feature delves into all aspects of the film’s making. This includes stories behind casting decisions, script changes, on set comradery, and a few near fatal flubs during filming. The most interesting bits are those that involve ways the crew dealt with the budget and time constraints (really, it looks like an 'A' picture, especially by 1995 pre-digital norm special effects), and the ultimate distributor butchery. Fortunately for myself, this was the first time I’d seen the film, as apparently the director’s cut is by far the preferred version.

The feature length commentary includes the director, fight choreographer, and the two main stars. Kadeem Hardison basically dominates the track, as his voice and personality are the largest of the four participants, but director Wang manages to keep most of the track on focus. The track is playful, fun, and easy to listen to.
 
Also included is a collection of deleted scenes, an interview gallery, a photo gallery and the cast and crew bios. Most of the deleted scenes were deleted with good purpose; however, each is still accompanied by a nice description and a reason for their deletion. The interview galleries mostly consist of outtake footage that didn’t make it into the original documentary, and not very interesting, frankly.

Drive
Overall
It’s hard not to recommend Drive to any action film fan. If you liked the Rush Hour movies, this is the picture for you. If you didn’t like the Rush Hour movies, my recommendation comes even higher, as it is the best example of how a buddy action/American kung fu movie can be done right. American action enthusiasts with PAL converting players really can’t go wrong with this disc, which is affordable, and easily the best on the market.

This DVD is available for purchase, ON SALE at www.hkflix.com.


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