Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mark Dacascos is the Driver

Maybe you think electric cars are more environmentally friendly, but fossil fuels have one big advantage. They still burn after the zombie apocalypse wipes out human civilization. Driving is our protag’s’ job for his rag-tag community of survivors—and you will not find him behind the wheel of a Prius. Try BMW. He will have to do what he does best when human and zombie attacks threaten his daughter’s safety in Wych Kaosayananda’s The Driver, which releases today on DVD.

The community is a little peeved at the Driver, because he and his dirtbag partner Joe followed orders and drove a popular but larcenous thief to his death. Thanks to Joe, it was an ugly case of execution by zombie. Unfortunately, Joe has more jerkheel behavior in store from the Driver, when he sells out the community to a violent gang of marauders. Naturally, all the commotion attracts the zombies, who quickly overrun both sides of the fight. The Driver barely escapes with his car and his daughter Bree, but sadly, he is not unscathed.

With the clock ticking, The Driver gives Bree a crash course on survival skills. They desperately speed towards “Haven,” a rumored strong-post of civilization up north, even though he is not sure it truly exists. Along the way, they will have to deal with plenty of zombies and human scum.

Dacascos will always be known to many as “The Chairman” on Iron Chef, but after his recent high-profile turns in Wu Assassins and John Wick 3, he is primed for a career renaissance as an action star. Alas, it won’t start with The Driver, but it is not a total dead-loss. As the titular Driver, Dacascos shows much more range most critics and viewers probably expect from him, especially in his tender parental scenes with Bree, played by his likable real-life daughter Noelani. Plus, his action chops remain undiminished. Like his fellow 1990’s action star, Gary Daniels, Dacascos always had screen charisma and is still in terrific shape. Frankly, both of them should have been bigger stars during their peaks.

Nevertheless, The Driver truly looks like the cheap, foreign-produced B-movie that it totally is. It was probably a minor miracle there was enough money in the budget for a BMW. Still, Kaosayananda (who directed Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu in the notorious video-game movie, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever) stages some brutally effective gun fights. Maybe this isn’t the most ambitious movie ever, but it gets a considerable bang for its minimal buck.

You have to give Dacascos credit for doing his thing. Alice Tantayanon and Milena Gorum also sufficiently impress in their third act action sequences to make viewers lament they did not enter the picture sooner. Perhaps the film’s greatest problem is its conspicuous thematic and narrative similarities to Cargo starring Martin Freeman, which is a superior film, by a country mile. Still, The Driver has its merits, mostly because it is so willing to gets its hands dirty. If you are in the mood for a guns-blazing zombie movie set in Thailand, but featuring an English-speaking cast, then this is your film. Only really recommended for diehard, non-Iron Chef Dacascos fans, The Driver is now available on DVD.