Drive (1997) (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: May 28, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Drive (1997) (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Steve Wang

Release Date(s)

1997 (May 11, 2021)

Studio(s)

Overseas FilmGroup/NEO Motion Pictures (MVD Rewind Collection)
  • Film/Program Grade: C+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B

Drive (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Though it never made it to theaters in 1997, Steve Wang’s Drive was an attempt to do what films like John Wick would do later on: focus mostly on the action, but more specifically, martial arts action, and do it well. Featuring Mark Dacascos, who would later play a villain in John Wick 3: Parabellum, the story is fairly straightforward: bad guys are chasing a good guy, the good guy teams up with an unlikely partner, and by the end, they triumph. Performances aren’t great and the attempts at comedy never succeed, affecting the tone severely in some cases, but your price of admission are the well-choreographed and well-shot fight sequences that are inventive and have impact. The oddest addition is a post-Clueless Brittany Murphy, who gives an over-the-top performance as a goofy teenager with boundary issues. She tends to stand out in whatever she appears in, but in the case of Drive, she’s all over the map. Outside of the fight scenes, it’s one of the few aspects of the film that’s far from ordinary. In any case, Drive still managed to develop a cult following, and for good reason (keep your eyes peeled for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo by Bob Burns).

Toby (Mark Dacascos) is a special agent on the run from assassins who have orders to bring him back to Hong Kong. He has a highly experimental device installed in his chest that gives him amazing fighting abilities and he plans to go to Los Angeles, have the device removed, and sell it to an interested party for $5 million dollars. Stowing away on a boat and landing in San Francisco, he has an initial encounter with the assassin Vic (John Pyper-Ferguson) and his right-hand man Hedgehog (Tracey Walter). He ducks into a bar where down-on-his-luck songwriter Malik (Kadeem Hardison) is laying low after separating from his wife and family. A shootout ensues once Vic shows up, forcing Toby to take Malik hostage in order to evade the police. Driving to Los Angeles, the two men become fast friends. They attempt to hide out in a hotel, run by the eccentric young Deliverance (Brittany Murphy), but Vic and Hedgehog are not far behind. Meanwhile, their employer Mr. Lau (James Shigeta) grows impatient, sending out another biologically advanced fighter (Masaya Kato) to do the job instead.

Drive comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. The film was originally released on home video in a shorter version (which has been included here as an extra), but the main presentation is the extended director's cut of the film, which debuts in the US for the first time. It’s a mostly solid presentation with healthy but moderate grain levels. The variety of locations allows for good saturation with natural skin tones and bold primaries. Deep blacks with good shadow detail are also visible. It’s a mostly clean and stable presentation, outside of the opening credits, with only brief instances of white speckling, a few scratches, and minor delineation issues in a couple of scenes. It’s otherwise pleasant and organic in appearance.

The audio is included in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and English 2.0 LPCM. No subtitle options are included aside from a few to cover non-English speaking parts. The 5.1 track allows music and effects the opportunity to expand into the surrounding speakers. Occasional directionality and a bit of rumble in the lower registers is also apparent. The stereo track is of a similar nature, but with less room to move around in (not to mention lossless). Both tracks have their pros and cons, but they provide adequate support for dialogue, sound effects, and score.

The following extras are included, primarily in HD but most upsampled from SD:

  • Audio Commentary with Steve Wang, Koichi Sakamoto, Mark Dacascos, and Kadeem Hardison
  • Original Theatrical Cut (HD – 99:46)
  • Deleted Scenes (6 in all – 8:44)
  • Drive: The Force Behind the Storm (47:45)
  • Mark Dacascos Interview (3:51)
  • Steve Wang Interview (4:23)
  • Wyatt Reed Interview (5:26)
  • Koichi Sakamoto Interview (5:24)
  • Kadeem Hardison Interview (5:31)
  • Trailer (1:38)
  • Guncrazy Trailer (1:46)
  • Dahmer Trailer (HD – 1:55)
  • Sukiyaki Western Django Trailer (1:59)
  • Double Dragon Trailer (1:51)
  • Boogie Boy Trailer (2:22)

The audio commentary with director Steve Wang, fight choreographer Koichi Sakamoto, and actors Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison is fun. The actors tend to goof around while Wang talks about the film’s production and discuss the differences between the two versions, but the four men get along well and seem to be comfortable with each other. The original theatrical version (assumedly released in theaters outside the US) is provided in HD in 1.78:1 with optional English subtitles and a stereo soundtrack. As stated in the text before the film begins, this presentation has been sourced from an older, undated HD master and contains baked-in color and minor damage issues. It’s nearly 20 minutes shorter than the extended version, trimming out many of the character beats, and features a completely different score. Six deleted scenes are included as well: an extra moment in Malik's house when he and Toby have a conversation in his daughters' room; a minor trim between Vic and Hedgehog while they’re travelling together; a scene extension in which Deliverance hugs Toby after the fight at the hotel; a moment at the karaoke bar in which Toby talks about his brother; a longer version of the final fight; and the entire Walter: The Einstein Frog TV show as seen in the film. The Force Behind the Storm documentary comes from a UK DVD release that covers the film’s production. The interviews feature the cast and crew answering various questions, which are also used in the documentary. Rounding out the extras are the film’s trailer and five trailers for other MVD Rewind releases. The disc is housed in a snap amaray case with reversible artwork and a mini-poster. All of this is placed inside a slipcover featuring the original home video artwork. It’s worth noting that the aforementioned UK DVD contained several still galleries, which haven’t carried over.

MVD Rewind continues its trend of offering little known genre films in great quality with a nice selection of bonus materials. Drive is a fun little gem that most people missed because it has the straight-to-video stink on it, designating it as something not worth their time. But if you’re a fan of action movies with a little more to them, Drive comes recommended on Blu-ray.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

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