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Review: The Driver

Mark Dacascos made a much welcome return to action this year by facing off against John Wick in (the greatest action movie of the decade) John Wick Chapter 3 and co-starring with Iko Uwais for Netflix’s martial arts show Wu Assassins and now he’s battling zombies in The Driver, but unfortunately it’s disappointing for both action and zombie fans.

Dacascos stars as the title character, an unnamed former hitman who is trying to keep his wife and daughter safe in the zombie apocalypse.  When one of the members of the settlement they live in betrays the group and allows in both vicious raiders and the undead, The Driver’s wife is bitten and he’s forced to kill her and then flee with his daughter Bree to try and find a possible safe place called Haven to the north.  The Driver realizes he was bitten as well in the battle at the compound and has to try and teach his daughters the skills she needs to survive the zombie apocalypse.  The premise of “Mark Dacascos in the zombie apocalypse” probably conjures up visions of the once and future Iron Chef Chairman battling zombies with martial arts but if The Driver is anything, it’s mostly a drama about a dying father trying to impart life lessons to his daughter before he passes.  The attack on the compound is the only major action sequence and features the only time Dacascos goes hand to hand with anyone, which feels like throwing a bone to action fans but the bone barely has any meat left on it.  It’s nice that Dacascos got to make a movie with his real-life wife Julie Condra and daughter Noelani Dacascos but there’s really not a lot here for zombie fans or martial arts/action fans.  There’s also really no point outside of the big action sequence to the compound where The Driver is living.  There are quite a few characters that are set-up and then vanish and a strange leader named Gabriel who devours scenery with religious speechifying but is then dispatched within 5 minutes of being introduced.  I feel like if they really wanted to lean more into the drama that is the main meat of the movie, it would have better just to start with The Driver and his daughter on the road.

The director of The Driver is Wych Kaosayananda aka Kaos, the man who brought us Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever back in the day.  The Driver is better overall as a film but it’s also much more boring than the batshit insanity of Ballistic.  The movie pretty flat and uninteresting shot wise and most of it is in The Driver’s BMW, which makes sense given that he’s “The Driver” and he has some sweet moments with his daughter but most people watching probably want more zombie fighting action and fewer life lessons imparted by a dying father.

The Driver fails to deliver for both fans of Mark Dacascos’s martial arts prowess or zombie mayhem.  Besides the one inciting incident at the compound, there really isn’t that much else that happens in the movie besides The Driver teaching his daughter a few important skills.  It feels like it didn’t even really need to be in the zombie apocalypse, like, it could have just been Mark Dacascos is a dying hitman who wants to reconnect with his daughter one last time and maybe gets into one final battle to protect her or something.  There was a short film turned movie called Cargo on Netflix that features a similar kind of premise but does something much more interesting with it and plays to its main star Martin Freeman’s skills more.  Dacascos is fine here and it’s nice he got to flex his dramatic chops but we really just want to see him karate kick zombies in the head and The Driver fails to do that.

(The Driver is out on now on DVD, Digital and On-Demand)

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