Drive (1997) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Sep 13, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Drive (1997) (4K UHD Review)

Director

Steve Wang

Release Date(s)

1997 (September 13, 2022)

Studio(s)

Overseas FilmGroup/NEO Motion Pictures (88 Films/MVD Rewind Collection)
  • Film/Program Grade: C+
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B+

Drive (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!

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 film’s 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 at times, 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 five 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’t 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 was shot by director of photography Michael Wojciechowski on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. 88 Films and MVD Rewind Collection have collaborated on the 4K Ultra HD debut of the film in its extended director’s cut form, which has been taken from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, and graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). One can assume that the source is the same as MVD’s previous Blu-ray release. At first glance, it’s not that handsome a picture, but once the opening seven minutes (likely pulled from an interpositive for the opening credits) are finished, there’s a significant jump in quality. That’s not to say that the presentation is perfect either. Grain wavers a bit, appearing heavy and even a little clumpy in places, but there’s a minor boost in detail over the previous Blu-ray. Blacks are decent, though they’re a tad too bright in certain areas. Saturation is good, not great. The club scenes toward the end of the film with the variety of neon hues is really where it comes to life. The HDR grades don’t widen the gamut all that much, but flesh tones appear mostly natural. It’s a mostly clean and stable presentation, with only brief instances of white speckling, a few scratches, and minor delineation issues in a couple of scenes. A more aggressive grade and a boost in contrast was needed to really take advantage of the subtle nuances, but it’s otherwise pleasant and organic.

The audio has been upgraded with a new English Dolby Atmos track (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), as well English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio options (the previous Blu-ray release offered English 5.1 Dolby Digital and English 2.0 LPCM tracks only). Subtitles are also included in English SDH. The new Atmos track, as well as its 5.1 counterpart, really open up the soundtrack with strong directionality in the surrounding speakers. Dialogue is given ample support and the score has been beefed up, as well. It’s expansive with strong staging and frequent panning, as well as occasional low end support.

Drive on 4K UHD sits in a black amaray case with reversible artwork, including new artwork by Sam Gilbey on the front and artwork used for some of the film’s home video releases on the reverse. Everything is housed in a slipcase that features additional new artwork, as well as a mini-poster replica of it (unfortunately, the VHS artwork used for the previous Blu-ray release didn’t make the cut). It’s worth noting that the UK DVD release contained several still galleries, which haven’t carried over. The following extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary with Steve Wang, Koichi Sakamoto, Mark Dacascos, and Kadeem Hardison
  • Original Theatrical Cut (HD – 99:48)
  • Drive: The Force Behind the Storm (SD – 47:43)
  • Highway to Nowhere: Jason Tobin & Drive (HD – 20:01)
  • Deleted Scenes (Upsampled SD – 6 in all – 8:01)
  • Interview Gallery (SD – 24:41)
  • Trailer (Upsampled SD – 1:42)

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 attempts to talk 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 since the film went straight-to-video) is included in 1080p in 2.35:1 with optional subtitles and a stereo soundtrack. It’s nearly 20 minutes shorter than the extended version, trimming out many of the character beats, and features a completely different score. The Force Behind the Storm documentary first appeared on a UK DVD release and it covers the film’s production with the cast and crew. Highway to Nowhere is a new featurette with actor Jason Tobin who talks about his career and his very small role as an extra in the film. The six deleted scenes include an extra moment in Malik's house when he and Toby have a conversation in his daughters' room, a minor trim between Vic and Hedehog while they’re traveling 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 interviews (showcased separately on the previous Blu-ray release) feature the cast and crew answering various questions, which were also used in the main documentary. Participants include Mark Dacascos, Steve Wang, Wyatt Reed, Koichi Sakamoto, and Kadeem Hardison.

88 Films and MVD Rewind have given Drive a minor makeover that doesn’t quite match up to the standards of other films of a similar type being released on 4K Ultra HD, but let’s face it. It doesn’t really need to. If you’re a fan of the film and you didn’t already own the previous Blu-ray, this is the best the film looks and sounds on home video. Owners of the previous Blu-ray will have to decide whether the small improvements are enough for another dip, only a year after the release of the previous disc. This reviewer thinks so, but you be the judge.

- Tim Salmons

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