The 1997 hidden action gem hits 4k UHD in a feature packed special edition!
The 90s were a weird time for indie cinema, thanks to video stores there was a real need for all kinds of smaller films to supplement the bigger releases on rental shelves. Not to mention after the success of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction there was a weird nearly Italian-like homage/emulation/knock off mentality of either Fiction or Reservoir Dogs in a good percentage of these releases. This had a lot of films popping up with wordy dialog, hyper violence and straight up copying Tarantino, all hoping to make a quick buck or become the next breakout “it” director. 1997’s Drive was admittedly a blind spot for me, which definitely falls into this category and I was able to remedy this thanks to 88 Films’ recent 4K UHD release.
Drive, not to be confused with the Nicolas Winding Refn’s film is very much a product of the 90s and feels like a mix of Rush Hour and Crank as you have the charismatic Mark Dacascos (John Wick’s Fan Favorite Fanboy Assassin from 3) sporting a full head of hair as Toby Wong (Reservoir Dogs Reference!) who has a device implanted in his chest that gives him superhuman speed and strength. Toby has fled China and is in the US to hopefully sell the top secret device to the Americans, where he runs into wanna be songwriter Malik Brody (Kadeem Hardison) who he carjacks and ends up partnering up with on his quest. The film is more or less a two hander road movie, with bits with a bit of bargain basement sci-fi thrown in for good measure, and I mean this in the best possible way. The chemistry is great between the pair and the action is solid, and that’s all that really matters here.
If that wasn’t enough we even get a fresh faced Brittany Murphy as a crazed, machine gun toting love sick hotel clerk in one of her earlier roles.
First and foremost Mark Dacascos is just a joy to watch here, yes even his cringe inducing karaoke scene that takes place in a Jack Rabbit slims knock off space restaurant. Unlike a lot of action stars at the time, not only does he have the action chops, but he oozes charisma and is just so damn likable, which is the same vibe he deals out in Wick, sans hair. Kadeem here oddly plays more or less the straight man and is our presence inside this strange world and does his best at keeping up with Dacascos. I have to say the biggest surprise here is Brittany Murphy who is unhinged in the best way possible in her all too brief appearance. You can tell just like our two leads he is having just as much fun playing in this hyper stylized sandbox. While this is definitely an indie budget action film, no amount of money can buy good direction and the action here is just beautifully choreographed and captured.
The disc here sports a fresh 4K scan and that helps to highlight some of the great stunt work on display here since Dacascos is doing most if not all of his own. There’s also a practicality to the action set pieces that you don’t see a lot of today that this also puts on the forefront since the 4K delivers a rather striking clarity to those scenes. The 4K UHD disc presents the longer “Director’s Cut”, which allows for some more character development that further humanizes the pair. This comes with an Atmos track that does its best to accent those action scenes, while not overwhelming the viewer. There is also a wealth of standard def supplemental material carried forward from previous DVD release that really shows its age when compared to the 4K disc.
Drive was a blast from start to finish and it really showcased Mark Dacascos and why this man should have been a bigger deal, he’s just so damn likable here and can kick ass with the best of them. Seriously between him and Brittany Murphy’s batshit crazy hotel clerk I am surprised it took me this long to see this film, but I am glad I did see it this way thanks to the included Extended Director’s Cut in 4K. I love that films like these are making their way to UHD so you can truly experience them on the best format possible, in their purest forms. Drive was just so much fun and a film I can’t recommend enough to those action fans looking for something off the beaten path but still oddly familiar.