Drive

OK, who the hell “disliked” Drive on YouTube? I mean, come on! The film’s a classic!

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I’ve just spent a lovely evening watching it for maybe the thirtieth time, and it just never gets old. Drive is a 1997 direct-to-video action flick about an assassin on the run from a Chinese government-backed corporation, and it’s at least three times as much fun as any big-budget no-brainer you’ve sat through lately.

Iron Chef America star Mark Dacascos backflips his way through the beautifully-choreographed fights like a much prettier Jackie Chan. I could write poetry about his cheekbones:

“Oh Mark, you’re a bright spark …”

(I never said it would be good.)

I’ve always been puzzled at his lack of fame – he’s good-looking, a great martial artist and a passable actor. Apparently he’s the eeevil nemesis in the Hawaii Five-O remake, which I guess is a job, and lost last year’s Dancing with the Stars to Donny Osmond, though you probably remember him from that woeful Crow series that was on cable a while back.

Able support comes from Kadeem Hardison from A Different World, who plays the obligatory (genuinely funny) wisecracking sidekick, and the much-missed Brittany Murphy as an endearingly manic motel owner. During my favourite fight, Murphy improvises a cheerleading routine to show her appreciation for Dacascos’s gymnastic ass-whuppings. I think I’d be doing much the same thing in her position. Face it: this is porn-fu, as in, f*** the plot.

If it’s story that you’re interested in, it’s set in an unspecified near future. Toby Wong (Dacascos) has a cybernetic implant in his chest which gives him super-human strength and speed. It was put there by the Chinese government, who have trained him to be “the perfect assassin”. He’s rebelled against his orders and has accepted an offer of five million dollars for his implant from an American corporation. The Chinese have hired high-tech hitmen (and some hilariously useless goons, including the sidekick in Conan the Destroyer) to bring Wong back. He kidnaps unemployed songwriter Malik (Hardison) and forces him at gunpoint to drive him to LA.

It’s very much a buddy movie in the Rush Hour vein, and has all the same charm, humour, warmth and exhilaration of that film despite having literally one-tenth of its budget. Shot for just $3.5 million, it never really feels cheap or underdone. A lot of the credit for that has to go to the adorable cast, and to Scott Phillips for his razor-sharp script:

Toby Wong: Back to plan A.
Malik Brody: What’s plan A?
Toby Wong: Don’t get shot.
Malik Brody: Good plan!

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2 comments on “Drive

  1. Great to read an appreciation of Drive.
    You should get your hands on the UK Special Collector’s Edition – it’s longer than the US version.
    Not more action, but more character exposition – it explains that Toby is not just selling out to the highest bidder. Plus it has the original music, not the dumb one the US version has.

    It always bug me when people call “Drive” a rip-off of “Rush Hour”.
    Drive was made BEFORE RH, and Brett Ratner who directed Rush Hour, has admitted to watching Drive before directing RH ….

    I wouldn’t say Mark lost DWTS – he just didn’t win – but then, who can beat an entertainer like Donny Osmond with a bazillion former teenage fans? Mark was starting almost from scratch as I don’t think loads of Martial Arts fans were watching DWTS …

    Mark was elimintated week 7 – unfairly imo since his partner got sick and had to be replaced 48 hours before the dance-off. And in the dance-off, Aaron Carter repeated a dance that he had danced a short while before, getting good votes.
    Can you tell I*m still miffed? 😉

  2. Thanks for all the info, Anne. I’ve got the UK director’s cut, and it does explain who the girl in the greetings card is, so I’m guessing that’s the extra exposition.

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