It’s been several years since director Wych Kaosayanada overcame arduously weaving together a more marketable narrative of his 2012 Thai murder drama, Angels with the Dustin Nguyen/Scott Adkins starrer, Zero Tolerance. The director even takes a handle of his own cinematography of his work for the most part, which, in turn, contributes to one of my own guilty pleasures, Dustin Nguyen’s Once Upon A Time In Vietnam.
Honing in his craft once more with The Driver, Kaosayananda births a nascent franchise of his own with one of a series of films featuring interconnecting story arcs between characters in a world long since overrun by zombies. To the delight of viewers’ martial arts star and actor Mark Dacascos takes the wheel in the title character, carving one of his more finer presentations of late after earning his way back into the spotlight with favorable roles in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and in Netflix series Wu Assassins.
It’s worth accrediting the well-intended efforts of Dacascos with directorial debut, Showdown In Manila in his wake, and appearances in Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Kelly Hu action comedy Maximum Impact and Martin-Christopher Bode’s Ultimate Justice. To this, it’s particularly pleasing to see Dacascos in a stronger evolution of his element than in recent memory, coupled with the added emotive enhancement of his character this time around.
In The Driver, Dacascos stars in the title role, a nameless, people-weary gunman, wheelman and former hitman-turned-lawman of the commune he polices in post-apocalyptic Thailand. Fearful for the sake of his family, wife Sharon (Julie Condra-Dacascos) and daughter Bree (Noelani Dacacos), it’s only a matter of time before bandits infiltrate the compound, triggering a zombie onslaught that endangers the lives of everyone inside.
An explosive battle wages on, ensuing a body count of both the dead and undead/dead sans the escapees fleeing for their lives. With Bree and her father left behind in the fallout, a countdown commences with both lives on the line as the two embark on a harrowing road trip to a rumored safeground called Haven, while the Driver makes every best effort to teach Bree everything she needs to survive with, or without him.
The biggest and best characteristic of Kaosayananda’s work goes definitively to his cinematography. It is largely one of his more notable strengths, invoking a sense of steadiness and balance between filming landscapes and various setpieces, as well as his actors, and it also proves beneficial to a degree when shooting action. His use of high-speed lensing at various key moments often enhance dramatic effect, from shooting the low-lit inner corridors of the commune at night with Dacascos front and center, to a touching, climatic moment near the end with the protagonist in his car.
The added bonus of seeing Dacascos in character stems immensely in seeing him with once more with his Crying Freeman leading lady Julie Condra-Dacascos, and with newcomer Noelani Dacascos – the actor’s real-life wife and daughter, respectively. Inarguably, some of the best moments of the film are captured with the family on screen as the Dacascos trio share some truly touching and pivotal moments, and this especially speaks to the scenes involving Dacascos and daughter Noelani. I was thoroughly impressed with her performance on screen, watching as it fueled her father’s tenacity in order to protect her no matter the cost.
Action and stunt coordination by stunt performer and fight choreographer Brahim Achabbakhe presents at least one key moment that allows Dacascos to do what fans mostly crave, and a few of the shots here are a bit on the tight end. The rest of the action accounts mostly for the kind of requisite zombie kills from afar next to the occasional firefights that action and horror fans would take a liking to, and to bookend, with an action star cameo that certainly arouses the interest.
Kaosayananda’s 2 Of Us, one other essential installment next to The Driver, delivers a more minimalist, slow-burn survival drama in comparison to what the latest delivers. In the end, it all culminates a lean, entertaining build-up to what may hopefully arise in the form of another, while Kaosayanada’s The Driver, brandishes a cinematically sinewy, palpitating coming-of-age survival thrillride.