Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review - Drive (1998 - Dir. Steve Wang)

We come to the final instalment of our Buddy Movie Season. Drive is a hidden little gem amongst the pile of 'dog presents' that is the straight-to-DVD action film (generally speaking, of course). This is very similar to Rush Hour, but I think it was made well before it. The copyright on the back of the DVD is dated 1995. It probably languished for a while in someone's car boot before getting a release date. There is a rubbish version that was butchered at the producer's request. You want the 112 minute version with the proper soundtrack. Way better.

Starring the legend, Mark Dacascos (Brotherhood of the Wolf) and comedian Kadeem Hardison, you can see where the Rush Hour template came from. Toby Wong (Dacascos) has a Bio-Engine inside him, that makes him a top bloke for having next to you in a scrap. A Chinese corporation wants it back. Malik Brody (Hardison), reluctantly at first, helps him to keep it out of their greedy little mits.

It has a low budget, but there is so much action on-screen that you don't tend to notice it. The fights are well choreographed by Koichi Sakamoto and he shows a total disregard for the safety of his Alpha Stunts team, in a similar fashion to the early Jackie Chan films. People get thrown into heavy metal machinery, nearly break their backs on huge pipes, barrels and shelves, and someone falls off a motorbike. By being flying kicked in the face. Every fight includes a different element to keep it fresh, for example, our stars being handcuffed together or the use of tasers and whips. Yes, whips. It does become surprisingly dark by the end of the film, for a comedy. All good clean fun, though.

A mention here for the late Brittany Murphy (Sin City), who is fantastic in this film. She taunts and flirts with Malik through all of their scenes and it is a shame when she is left behind at a roadside cafe and plays no further part in the film. 

Most of the humour in Drive doesn't actually come from the film. Stick with me on this one. For once, it is a good idea to listen to the commentary track. Easily the best one I've heard. I listen to the commentary as often as I watch the film. Steve Wang, Koichi Sakamoto and the two stars discuss the film and point out loads of funny moments that you would otherwise miss. I won't spoil any of them for you. Oh, and Koichi keeps trumping and laughing about it in a comedy high-pitched fashion.

This is an action classic, if you give it a chance. It's a shame that Steve Wang hasn't been given the chance to direct more. Obviously, the way he talks about the producer, on the commentary track, doesn't help his cause.

If you like this you could also try:
Rush Hour, Police Story 1-3, Mutronics, Guyver - Dark Hero, Crying Freeman.

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