The Driver is a Mark Dacascos vehicle (pun intended) in which he plays an unnamed hitman trying to keep his daughter Bree (Mark’s real life daughter Noelani Dacascos) alive during the zombie apocalypse. The elder Dacascos is excellent in the role, bringing the same humor and warmth that he brings in all of his roles. Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t make it up Dacascos’s level.
The Driver opens with Dacascos’s titular character and his partner Joe (Jeremy Stutes) driving a blue BMW with a soon-to-be exile in the trunk. The person bouncing around back there was caught stealing water in their community for the third and final time. When they release him, Joe gives the exile an option: they could put a bullet in his head or he could try his luck on the zombie-infested outside. The exile elects the latter, but Joe fires a few shots in the air before he and the driver swing the BMW back toward civilization. The zombies are quick to converge.
If anything separates the zombies of this world from others, it’s their attraction to sound. They flock to it, running rather than shambling. They are sparsely made-up. They’re very pale, but lack the walking wounds that other modern zombie media has spoiled us with.
There’s tension in their community when the Driver and Joe get back, and while the film spends a while showing that tension bubbling, the community is overrun before the end of the first act. The driver and his daughter escape in that beautiful blue BMW, and the driver tries to teach her the skills she needs to survive as they search for the mythical city Haven. It shares emotional DNA with Martin Freeman-starring Cargo and Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring Maggie. They all use zombies as a metaphor for the dangers in the world that fathers are trying to prepare their children for.
A large chunk of this film is in that car, focusing on the Driver’s conversations with Bree. It likely cuts down the budget of the film, but it leads to visual stagnation. Think Locke without a performance as strong as Tom Hardy’s.
The frame also leads to questions about what they were doing before. The Driver is fairly cynical, complaining that, “The dead went after good people and left us with a******s” and observing, “One thing the old never lacked was guns and ammo.” He’s paranoid enough that he’s made sure every member of his family has a go-bag in case something happens in their settlement. Yet, in these car scenes he teaches his daughter to shoot a gun for the first time. It appears that despite being in the zombie apocalypse for years, she’s never used a gun before. It’s a sweet idea, a father passing his knowledge onto his daughter, but in an apocalypse that’s been going on this long, it’s hard to believe that he hasn’t thought to do this sooner.
There’s also the issue of acting. Mark Dacascos is excellent. He’s funny, and tender. When it’s time for a fight scene, he’s believable. The same isn’t true of nearly anyone else in the cast. They aren’t up to his level, delivering lines awkwardly. Director Wych Kaosayananda (who also directed Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever) puts a lot of the emotional weight of the film on Noelani Dacascos, which she may not be ready to carry at this point in her career.
The dialogue also does the actors no favors. It’s intentionally cheesy. The Driver has some gems in his voice over, “I used to kill people for a living. Now I kill the dead to live” and in dialogue, “Load up the clip like it’s Pez Candy.” The elder Dacascos delivers the lines with a gravity that makes them exciting action movie moments. No one else in the cast breathes the same life into them, making the lines come off as lame.
The action choreography is a bright spot, though. Mark Dacascos is a martial artist who brings a palpable intensity to each of his physical altercations. He’s convincing shooting guns as well. Beyond his performance, the other fights are exciting. It’s not as intense as the recent fight-heavy Train to Busan, but that’s not what The Driver is going for. Kaosayananda’s action is as over-the-top as the dialogue, but seeing people do backflips while they explode is a better fit for this film.
The Driver has a great premise and a great lead, but Mark Dacascos isn’t enough to make this film work.
The DVD comes with a 13 minute “Making of The Driver” and a trailer gallery.
Wicked Rating – 4/10
Director: Wych Kaosayananda
Writers: Steve Poirier, Wych Kaosayananda
Stars: Mark Dacascos, Julie Condra, Noelani Dacoscos
Release Date: November 26, 2019 (On Demand and DVD)
Studio/Production Company: Kaos Entertainment
Run-Time: 97 minutes
Subgenre: Zombie, Action