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Drive (1997) - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Not to be confused with the Nicholas Winding Refn movie of the same name from 2011, 1997's Drive, directed by Steve Wang, introduces us to Toby Wong (Mark Dacascos), a martial arts expert who has been technologically enhanced to make him the ultimate ass kicker. We see this first hand when he takes down some bad guys in the opening scene. From here, he winds up at a dive bar in Los Angeles where he meets aspiring musician Malik Brody (Kadeem Hardison), just as some more bad guys show up only to once again get slaughtered by Wong.
In quick need of an escape route, Wong winds up taking Malik hostage to a certain extent, forcing him to drive him out of the city in his car to escape from those chasing him down. It's here that Wong explains to Brody his situation. As the bad guys, led by Vic Madison (John Pyper-Ferguson) working for the mysterious Mr. Lau (James Shigeta), who wants his technology back, continue to give chase, the pair takes a brief solace at a rundown hotel operated by horny party girl Deliverance Bodine (Brittany Murphy), but it isn't long before Madison and his crew close in on them, leading to an inevitable showdown between Wong and his upgrade (Ron Yuan).
Owing a bit of a debt to buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon (albeit without the cop aspect) but preceding the similar Rush Hour by a year or so, Drive is a crowd pleasing mix of action and humor. It's never particularly deep, despite trying to cram in a subplot about Malik's unresolved feelings for his ex-wife and daughter, and there isn't a whole lot of character development to latch onto, but it offers up plenty of exciting action set pieces and some decent doses of humor, some more effective than others (the less said about the scene where Toby gets up on stage in a bar and sings a revised version of Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey to fit Malik's love life the better).
The movie is slick, fast-paced and well-edited. It moves at a good clip and features some really impressive fight choreography, allowing Dacascos to show off his skills in this arena, as well as some equally impressive stunt work and driving set pieces. Wang directs the movie with plenty of style and cinematographer Michael G. Wojciechowski has a great eye for both composition and for color. The soundtrack is a bit on the generic side but otherwise, the production values are pretty strong overall, and there's some good set design and location work on display here as well.
As far as the performances go, this is more or less Dacascos' show. He doesn't show a ton of range here, but he doesn't need to. He suits his character well and handles the movie's few dramatic moments well enough. It's in the action scenes that he flourishes, however, moving fast and with seriously impressive agility, making you wonder why he hasn't become a bigger name in the action movie world over the years. He has decent chemistry with Kadeem Hardison. You know, and understand, why they don't like each other at first but you also know just as well that they're going to eventually hit it off and become friends. Hardison has good comedic timing and does fine in his role. Brittany Murphy seems to be channeling Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks a little bit but she does it well. She looks great in the role and brings some effective humor to her scenes. John Pyper-Ferguson is entertaining to watch as the main heavy, and James Shigeta perfectly fine as his boss. No one was going to walk away from this one with an Oscar nomination, but they all handle the material well enough.
Drive comes back to UHD from 88 Films on in HVEC encoded 2160p ultra high definition framed at 2.39.1, the film's original aspect ratio, with Dolby Vision and HDR enhancement taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative. Generally speaking, the picture quality here is very strong. Colors look perfect throughout and we get really strong black levels. The opening few minutes during the credits look soft but things pick up nicely after that. Detail is usually really strong, though there are a few scenes that look softer than others, likely a result of the way that the movie was shot. The image is fairly grainy, naturally so it would seem, and there are times where the grain doesn't resolve quite as smoothly as maybe it could have, but otherwise we don't have much to complain about here, even if there are some tiny bits of print damage here and there. There's good depth, nice shadow detail in the darker scenes, accurate looking skin tones and generally a very appropriately filmic look to the presentation.rn rn
Audio options are provided in Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD 5.1 and DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo options with subtitles available in English only. The Atmos track is really strong, with plenty of effective channel separation noticeable in all of the action scenes and even in some of the film's quieter moments as well. The score is spread out very effectively and while most of the dialogue is up front in the mix, it works, always coming through cleanly and clearly. There are no issues with any hiss, distortion or sibilance here, the track is, overall, quite excellent.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track with Steve Wang, Koichi Sakamoto, Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison. Carried over from the previous Blu-ray edition, this is a good talk with plenty of information about how the movie came to be, casting the picture, how everyone got along on set, what it was like shooting some of the more complicated action set pieces, locations that were used for the shoot and quite a bit more.
Also carried over from the previous release is the forty-eight minute The Force Behind The Storm featurette made up of some cast and crew interviews and that goes into quite a bit of detail about the making of the movie. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary but is a nice alternative to it if you don't' want to go that route. Also carried over from that Blu-ray are twenty-five minutes of archival interviews with Mark Dacascos, Steve Wang, Wyatt Reed, Koichi Sakamoto and Kadeem Hardison.
The disc also includes the Original Theatrical Cut of the movie, which runs an hour and forty minutes and is taken from an older, existing master with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio.
New to this release is the twenty-minute Highway To Nowhere, which interviews Jason Tobin. He had a small role as one of the extras in the movie and he talks here about how he got the part, what it was like on set and some of the experiences that he had while working on the production.
Finishing up the extras on the disc are eight minutes of deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options. It's also worth pointing out the nice job that 88 Films has done on the packaging here as the disc comes with reversible cover sleeve art, a poster tucked away inside the keepcase and a nice slipcover featuring a very cool metallic sheen to the printing.
Drive is pretty fun, a consistently entertaining and amusing action movie that, if not exactly deep, gives you what you want when you want it thanks to some fun work from the leads, impressive action choreography and a good sense of humor. The UHD release from 88 Films looks pretty solid and sounds very good and it not only carries over the extras from the previous Blu-ray edition but it throws in a new interview as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.