* * *1\2
Directed by: Steve Wang
Starring: Mark Dacascos, Kadeem Hardison, Tracey Walter, Sanaa Lathan, and Brittany Murphy
Toby Wong (Dacascos) is a man with something called a BioEngine in his chest. When it comes to his Martial Arts abilities, this prototype electronic device increases his speed and reaction time. Because it is apparently worth five million dollars, there are a lot of baddies that are after it. The leaders of the crew trying to capture Wong are Madison (Ferguson) and his sidekick Hedgehog (Walter). After a chance run-in at a bar, Wong meets aspiring songwriter Malik Brody (Hardison).
Brody recently lost his house, his wife (Lathan) and his job. So even though Wong “kidnaps” him, he no doubt feels he has nothing to lose by sticking with Wong throughout his wild adventure. Plus, Wong offers him half the money if he’ll DRIVE him from San Francisco to L.A. But the baddies are never far behind. They check into a hotel and meet a quirky girl named Deliverance (Murphy) and she helps them out for a while, but the final confrontation is at a karaoke bar, where all hell breaks loose... who will come out victorious?
It’s easy to see why Drive is widely praised for being one of the best DTV’s ever. It’s an extremely entertaining ride with excellent Martial Arts choreography, stunts, action, and plenty of humor. It never takes itself too seriously, hence bizarre inventions like the TV show “Walter The Einstein Frog” which characters seem to always be watching. Needless to say, Drive is the original Drive (2011) - didn’t the makers of that movie know there was already a movie with that title? They inadvertently showed their film ignorance. Drive is also the original Rush Hour (1998) - the comparisons are easy to see. Plus Drive is the original Crank (2006) - because the BioEngine in Wong’s chest has his adrenalin levels artificially raised and he has to deal with the consequences.
There are references to other movies as well - such as The Defiant Ones (1958), or Fled (1996), if you prefer. At one point Malik says Toby is “The original Five Fingers of Death”, and when a cop asks Toby’s name, Toby replies “Sammo Hung”. So genre fans have little winks and nods in their direction, if they’re paying attention to that sort of thing.
Hardison is genuinely funny as Malik - and as the man who gets thrown into this confusing situation, even as he pines for his lost wife - you actually feel for him as well. Compare this to the similar but much more horrible Mercenary 2 (1999). Robert Townsend is just annoying and Olivier Gruner has no personality. Whereas Dacascos executes his exaggerated moves with panache, and even sings and dances at one point! What more could you ask for?
As Toby and Mark go on the run, there’s plenty of “90’s tech” on display for nostalgia purposes. Not to mention a few songs on the soundtrack that scream “90’s!”, the most memorable of which is “Where’s the Party At” by Intellect. Mr. Intellect would probably be insulted by this, but the song is very Kris Kross-esque. But the movie is truly action packed, and delivers what you want, and more. It even avoids a couple of cliches along the way. It’s a fast-paced crowd pleaser, and we definitely recommend it.
A note about the DVD we viewed: We watched the 1 hour and 53 minute British DVD, which is the director’s cut. It restores about 15 minutes to the movie, which is substantial. Because it is in widescreen with a ton of extras, we strongly suggest you track down this DVD for the most complete “Drive” experience to date.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett
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