Fight Film Friday: Drive

Posted: September 17, 2010 in fight film friday
Tags: ,


USA, 1998

Genre: Action, Buddy Film

100 minutes

Mark Dacascos stars as Toby Wong, an experimental super assassin on the run from the company that created him.

One of many straight-to-video action films of the 90s, Drive is a fun little number that showcases Dacascos’s considerable talent as a stunt performer. Paired with Kadeem Hardison, it comes off as a quirky buddy picture as the two opposite characters played off each other. Unfortunately, the two lack substantial chemistry on screen and the writing ends up sounding contrived and tasteless. Racial issues are brought up a few times as a source of politically in/correct humor, but the tone falls flat. Both Dacascos and Hardison give solid performances given the material, but nothing in the movie ever seems to move past mediocrity. John Pyper-Ferguson acts as the main antagonist, a sort of hillbilly hitman, but he and his sidekick’s slapstick humor are more puzzling than entertaining. Brittany Murphy also makes an appearance as a hormonal teenage, but quickly becomes one of the most annoying side-characters I’ve ever seen. Every scene she’s in is bizarre and awkward, leaving things stagnant until the next action scene happens. The rest of the cast thankfully isn’t as hard to watch, making everyone else look better by comparison. It has to be said that there are times when it seems the cast is well aware of the more ridiculous points of the plot, and (to their credit) appear to be genuinely having fun with things.

Unable to escape the era it was made in, action clichés abound, including loads of bullets, the blind henchmen that shoot them, excessive explosions, and terrible one-liners. However, while other films have made these classic blunders endearing, there simply isn’t enough investment in the characters or story to make the rest of the movie worthwhile. It’s certainly loud enough, but the pacing makes it hard to even care when things start to blow up. While nothing is really that terrible (especially as far as direct-to-video types go), most things end up feeling decidedly average.

Now, the one saving grace of this film is definitely the fight choreography and performance.  Koichi Sakamoto, executive producer of the Power Rangers franchise, does a fine job bringing Hong Kong style action to American cinema. While not top of the line as far as fights go, it’s a welcome change from other US martial arts movies of the decade. The style is flashy to say the least, but it is performed well and Dacascos delivers in every scene. If you have any sort of interest in vintage 90s fight films, or are just trying to fill out your Dacascos filmography, Drive is definitely worth a watch.

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