By: John M Jerva
Review: The Driver
Starring: Mark Dacascos, Julie Condra, Brahim Chab and Noelani Dacascos
Directed By: Wych Kaosayananda
Official Synopsis: After a plague of the undead decimates human life on earth, a former hit man (Mark Dacascos, John Wick 3), his wife (Julie Condra, “Eerie, Indiana”), and daughter, Bree (Noelani Dacascos, Oh Lucy!), live quietly in a survivalist compound. But when their base is attacked, a massive explosion summons a swarm of the undead. They escape and must seek out the Haven – a rumored sanctuary up north – while the father teaches his daughter to shoot, drive, and survive before time runs out.
The Review: Back in 2007, action star and martial arts icon Mark Dacascos entered the zombie genre with the low budget Asylum pic I Am Omega which was a play on the bigger budgeted Will Smith film I Am Legend. Even though Dacascos’ version was stripped down and bare bones, the actor still made the film watchable with just his presence and his physical prowess. Hardly a masterpiece, the film was still a solid guilty pleasure.
Fast forward to 2019 and Dacascos revisits the zombie flick once again with the Wych Kaosayananda helmed thriller The Driver. While many fans will feel somewhat let down by the lack of empty handed combat and action the Star is usually known for, the film still delivers a more character driven look into a post apocalyptic world where family is still the most important thing ever.
With The Driver, it truly is a family affair as Mark is reunited on screen with his real life wife Julie Condra. The two first met while filming the Anime adaptation Crying Freeman and have been together since. To add more family fun into the mix, Dacascos’ daughter Noelani Dacascos has her first leading role starring as, you guessed it, his daughter. Julie has more of a supporting role in this one with the drama really focusing on father and daughter.
It is with this plot devise that really sells the film and at the heart of the picture is a bittersweet story of the loving bond between a father and a daughter amidst the chaos of a world gone mad.
The film is a slow burn at first as we are introduced to The Driver, played by Dacascos, as he is a former assassin with lethal skills who lives in a secluded compound inhabited by survivors which include his wife and daughter. To pave his way for him and his family, The Driver serves as a sort of police force enforcing the rules of the despot who runs the town. Doing this doesn’t always make him the most popular person around but he does his job and does it well. It’s alright though because at the end of the day, he has his wife Sharon and daughter Bree to come home to so to him, this life is still good.
Unfortunately, a band of ruthless cutthroats invade the compound which leads to a legion of the undead to swarm the facility taking out everything and everyone in their path. The Driver must contend with the zombie threat as well as a human one as he fights to protect his family.
Escaping the destruction, Driver and Bree go in the one in his car and now they must take on a lawless land where one wrong step can mean death. Knowing that he won’t be around forever, Driver starts to instruct Bree with the necessary skills it will take to survive.
Now at first look, once again the advertisements are false as they would leave you to believe that the film is a full on action pic and while there is action, it is more of the character study between Driver and Bree. Dacascos and his daughter share the most screen time together and for ghat the film does work as director Wych Kaosayananda tries something a little bit different and it is really the two Dacascos members that really make the film worth a watch. Now I know some people will complain that the film lacks the bite of other zombie genre installments but I applaud Wych for doing a 180 on the genre.
The action in The Driver is mostly of the running and gunning variety and while the scenes won’t win any awards for action film if the year, you still become vested with the father-daughter duo and you do want to see them survive the situation they have been thrown into. Things do get interesting as Driver is seriously injured along the way forcing Bree to step up in more ways than one.
The film only showcases one scene where Dacascos gets to unleash some killer moves and he does get to throw down with veteran stuntman, martial artist and fight coordinator Brahim Chab who actually served as the fight expert on the film. The scene is short but it does lack a little punch.
In terms of acting, the youngest Dacascos does a great and Noelani really does do an admirable job with the role. It’s good to see that the filmmakers didn’t transform her into a killing machine overnight which does make it realistic but you still see a change in Bree from beginning to end.
This film is actually the third in a trilogy of films with the first film called Dead Earth hitting DVD this January and the second still in pre- production. It is that second installment that has me intrigued because it will feature an action star who can really dish out the fisticuffs. I won’t spoil who it is but he does make his entrance at the end of the film leaving me wanting more so hopefully we will get that film as well. Wych has stated that each film is in the same universe but they can be watched separately as well.
The ending is left open and the fate of The Driver, although bleak looking, is still left up in the air so maybe Dacascos will revisit this character soon in the future with other installments. After all Dacascos is like a ninja. Just adding him into a film automatically makes it better.
If you go into the film knowing that it travels in a different direction then I think you might enjoy it for what it is. It certainly works to see Mark and his daughter together on screen and while the action isn’t too extraordinary, it still delivers on some fronts.
Verdict: 3 Out Of 5 Stars
Worth A Watch
The Driver is now available on DVD and Digital from Lionsgate Home Entertainment
About The Author: John M Jerva is the owner and editor-in-chief of Action-Flix.com and is a DIE HARD fan of everyhting Action! From the glorious past to the thrilling future, John lives and breathes action! Long live action cinema!