There are movies that grab you because they take big swings, there are movies that grip you because they resonate with some aspect of your being, and there are some movies that simply tickle you for their absolute audacity. Director Steve Wang’s 1997 sci-fi actioner Drive is the latter, a solid piece of Hong Kong-style action-stylized choreography with solid lead performances from Mark Dacascos (Brotherhood of the Wolf/John Wick 3) and Kadeem Hardison (White Men Can’t Jump) as the odd couple at the forefront of this action road comedy. Wang’s Drive already received the special edition home release treatment May 2021 via the MVD Rewind Collection, a special edition that included a commentary track, a featurette, deleted scenes, improved sound and video, as well as both versions of the film. More than a year later 88 Films releases Drive on 4K UHD, including all the previously released bonus features plus a brand-new featurette focused on actor James Tobin (Warrior/Fast & Furious 9).
Malik Brody (Kadeem Hardison) is having a rough day. Not only is he unemployed, but his favorite bar gets shot all to hell when it (and he) get caught in the crossfire between the mysterious Toby Wong (Mark Dacascos) and assassin Vic Madison (John Pyper-Ferguson). Taken as a hostage by Toby when the police arrive, Malik’s given one instruction: drive. But things aren’t exactly what they seem and the only way Malik and Toby are going to get out of this alive is if they trust each other.
As a fan of buddy comedies that range from Blazing Saddles (1974) to Lethal Weapon (1987) (before Gibson outed himself as an asshat) to buddy action films like Rush Hour (1998) and Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), Drive is a film that young me would’ve loved on release and had a ball with now. It’s not just because Dacascos is a skilled martial artist and is charismatic as hell, or that Hardison appears to be having a ball, or that Brittany Murphy (may she rest in peace) delivers an unexpectedly gonzo performance, but that it feels far more advanced than when it was released. I don’t mean in the way it uses technology as the impetus for the tale, but how it tackles interracial love, pop culture, global politics, and other aspects that are woven fairly smoothly throughout the film. Considering how the script underwent several changes during filming and post-production (hence the two versions of the film on-disc), it’s hard to tell if writer Scott Phillips (Broke Sky) is the one who came up with Madison attacking Malik with a whip and calling him “boy,” but the way in which Hardison conveys Malik’s surprise and anger feels as justified now as it did then. Difference is, it would be called “woke” now inside of “realistic.” Drive is rife with moments like these, some which use the very real frustrations of a people as a catalyst for action and others which are just pop culture references that people within that community will recognize immediately. I got more than a little chuckle going when Toby tried to use “Sammo Hung” as a cover name. IYKYK.
Whether you’re an old fan of Drive or just like to catch all the direct-to-video action when they hit home release, snagging a copy of Drive on Blu-ray last year was difficult to do. Most everyone within this reviewer’s circle that sought one missed out due to stock flying off physical and digital shelves faster than expected. With this 4K UHD edition, not only do those folks have a second chance, but those who bought it previously will now be faced with a proper dilemma: to rebuy or hold? As the only review copy I could get ahold of was the newly released 4K UHD edition, what follows won’t provide any kind of direct comparison beyond what’s on paper. Compared to the special edition Blu-ray, the 4K UHD has literally all the same features with a few minor tweaks. This edition comes with a 4K UHD edition of the 117-minute director’s cut and a 2K cut of the theatrical, whereas both were only 1080p. The difference in sound shifts only in that there is an audio track for Atmos-compatible systems, but the 4K does include the prior 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks, as well as optional subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Each of the on-disc features is also identical, except for a new 20-minute featurette, “Highway to Nowhere,” in which actor Jason Tobin discusses his experience as an extra on Drive and how that experience has informed his approach to working on a set. Tobin does specifically discuss moments with Dacascos and other aspects of working on the set, but a lot of the featurette is really looking at his entire career, which was still getting started when he joined Drive.
Based on what’s posted on the 88 Films and MVD websites, the cover art is a marked improvement as the art from Sam Gilbey offers some unique flair which evokes the late ‘90s period. Sam’s work has also been featured on the recent Arrow Video editions of Wild Things and True Romance, as well as Sony’s Spider-Man: Far from Home 4K UHD packaging. (For samples of his film packaging and other works, head to his official website.) In addition to the nice art, the slipcover is made of solid cardboard that feels more likely to hold up against outside pressures. I’ve never really gotten into the slipcover craze, but could see holding onto this one as it’s not only great art but offers nice protection for the case and disc within, something physical media collectors want for their purchases. If you prefer the original cover art, you can remove the slip and reverse the liner. Keep in mind that the slipcover is only available in the first pressing, as is the included foldout poster.
That just leaves one aspect left: the 4K UHD video restoration.
There’s no indication of who produced the scan or how and under whose supervision or approval, but if the HD scan for the 2021 Blu-ray was done using a 4K HD scan of the original camera negative, it’s likely that the same scan was used for the 4K UHD release. In the “makes a good reason to upgrade” column, the director’s cut 4K UHD edition includes Dolby Vision (as well as HDR10 compatible) to help get a more natural look for the film. In the opening sequence where we’re introduced to Toby and see the action get underway, the purples in what appears to be the morning sky are quite lovely, the browns on the crates in line with natural tones, and the black suits of the bad guys a nice inky color. There’s a great deal of noticeable grain in the sky and in other outside scenes, but, when the action goes inside, that grain all but disappears, resulting in a very clean image. The final action sequence that takes place at the Apollo 14 karaoke lounge makes good use of the high-dynamic range as the various neon colors offer the most light as Toby goes toe-to-toe with the upgraded assassin sent after him. All in all, it’s a solid restoration visually. My home setup isn’t Atmos compatible, so I had to watch the director’s cut with 5.1, and it was hard to find the balance within the first 20 minutes of the movie between dialogue and action where I wasn’t adjusting the sound every few minutes. This may not be an issue with the Atmos track, but it certainly is for the 5.1.
All in all, if you couldn’t snag the Blu-ray release, the 4K UHD edition is now the one to aim for. The restoration is mostly solid and the audio gets there, plus the bonus features are all included, plus one more. That, plus the original cut gets a 2K edition on the same disc as the 4K UHD director’s. That’s a lot of content on one disc. If, however, you were able to snag the Blu-ray, with so much overlap and so few new materials, the double dip may not be worth it. So trend with caution as you decide.
Drive 4K UHD Special Features:
- First Pressing: Limited Edition Slipcase with Artwork by Sam Gilbey
- First Pressing: A3 Fold-Out Poster
- 4K Ultra HD (2160p) presentation of the Director’s Cut in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
- Audio: Dolby Atmos, 2.0 PCM, 5.1 DTS-HD MA
- NEW! Drive: Original Cut in 2K HD with optional English Subtitles (HD, 1:39:00)
- NEW! Highway to Nowhere – Jason Tobin & Drive featurette (HD, 20:00)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Drive Previously Special Features:
- Audio commentary on director’s cut with director Steve Wang, fight choreographer Koichi Sakamoto and stars Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Harrison
- Drive: The Force Behind the Storm’ documentary (SD, 47:42)
- Six Deleted Scenes (SD, 08:42)
- Interview gallery with cast, director and crew including stars Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison, director Steve Wang, Second Unit Director Wyatt Weed and Stunt Coordinator Koichi Sakamoto (SD, 24:30)
- Original Trailer (SD, 01:38)
- Reversible Artwork
Available on 4K UHD September 13th, 2022.
For more information, head to 88 Films.
To purchase, head to MVD Entertainment Group.