eX-Driver The Movie - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: eX-Driver

eX-Driver The Movie

By luis     September 21, 2004
Release Date: October 12, 2004



The Review!
Geneon's promotional disc gives a sneak peek for eX-Driver the Movie and proves that good dubbing does exist.

Audio:
Geneon's promotional disc only contained the English 5.1 audio track; it is a solid audio track that provides some great direction effects during the action scenes. There were no noticeable distortions, dropouts, or other glitches. Music, sound effects, and dialogue were all balanced well making for a very enjoyable audio experience.

Video:
Produced in 2002, eX-Driver the Movie is a pristine anamorphic transfer. Colors were vivid; backgrounds were very detailed; and there were no noticeable problems from the digital transfer. The film does make liberal use of CG throughout the movie; for the most part, it works well and blends almost seamlessly in with the rest of the animation. However, there are a few spots where it just falls flat. Fortunately, none of these spots feature the cars, as the CG for them looks great even while in motion.

Packaging:
Geneon appears to already have come up with stellar packaging for this title's eventual release. The cover is reversible, and both sides feature some excellent artwork. The primary front cover features a collage of Souichi, Angela, Lorna, and Lisa along with their cars; the movie logo is at the top with a smaller logo for the twenty-five minute featurette (not included on the promotional copy) at the bottom. The back cover features the requisite screenshots, plot synopses, credits, and disc specifications.

The reverse side features Souichi, Lorna, and Lisa standing by Souichi's Super Seven car on Santa Monica Boulevard on the front cover. The back cover is mostly taken up by a large shot of Nina and Rei leaning on the hood of a car; the perspective makes it appear that you are staring at them from inside the car. There are only three small screenshots and two small boxes with the disc details taking up the back cover real estate.

The booklet insert features the primary front cover image on one side with the chapter and extras listing on the reverse. The booklet opens up to reveal a full-page image of the Santa Monica Boulevard image. While it was a promotional disc, it is clear Geneon is already finished with the packaging side of this release.

Menu:
Promotional disc; no extras

Extras:
Promotional disc; no extras

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the near future, all cars will be operated by AI systems eliminating the need for driver’s licenses and virtually eliminating all automobile accidents. But when the AI fails and goes out of control, it is up to specially licensed drivers in gasoline powered vehicles to stop them. These speed demons are known as eX-Drivers.

We quickly meet three of these ex-Drivers, as they gun their way through the streets of Los Angeles attempting to stop a runaway car. It is through this high-speed chase that we quickly learn about our trio of heroes who have recently arrived from Japan. Souichi is the youngest of the team but is already a skilled driver at the age of twelve. Lisa is the aggressive girl of the trio; she and Souichi bicker like brother and sister. Holding the team together is the calm and mature Lorna.

After stopping the runaway car, they find the occupant, a young girl, less than enthused by their help. They also find Lisa and Souichi are under arrest for violating an antiquated California law requiring that the steering wheel of their cars be on the left side. They are released the next morning, and we learn why they are actually in America. A huge race is being held that will pit the best eX-Drivers from around the world against each other.

At the track, the trio is introduced to Rico Gambino, an ex-Mafia boss that now runs a supermarket chain in LA. He is also the father of the young girl, Angela, that the trio saved the previous night. Events move quickly from this point, as the movie introduces Rico's associates, his nemesis Wang who also runs a supermarket chain in LA, and a few other secondary characters that help the trio throughout the film. Near the end, the film provides a sudden twist and ends with an old-fashioned chase scene across the desert.

This is the sort of film one would expect to see during the summer months; with no fancy plot, it just blazes through a standard action movie plot; however, the film does not end up feeling clichéd or boring. Rather than having the action scenes feel tacked on, the plot drives the action (pun intended) making the sixty plus minutes go by quickly. The driving sequences rely on precision driving rather than unbelievable physics defying feats, which is a great change of pace from most other action films.

Where the film does suffer is in the use of secondary characters; we do not see much of the other eX-Drivers other than the US team of Kelly and David. The pair appear to have an on-again/off-again relationship that is played for comedic effect; while there are a few moments that will make the audience smirk, their scenes feel more like filler material to pad the running time out another few minutes.

The audience will also feel the same about Inspector Ralph and his incessantly chattering partner Michael. Ralph is the stereotypical womanizing detective whose only noteworthy contribution in his brief screen time is to feel up Lisa. Michael contributes nothing to the film save for an endless stream of pointless monologue. Both characters could have easily been removed from the film and replaced with "Policeman A & B".

Fortunately, the bulk of the film is carried by our heroic trio, the spunky Angela, and her mafia father Rico. They are all engaging characters that the audience can easily connect with. Lisa and Souichi have an amusing rivalry going throughout the film, as they verbally needle each other. Rico is the perfect picture of a mafia don trying to go "legit". Each character plays their part quite well making the plot and action tie together smoothly.

And all this was done via an English dub; while dubbed anime is not my preference, this is easily a title I can hold up as an example of how well a dub can be done. Nearly all of the voices were perfect for their characters, and none of their performances felt flat. Rico's voice actor was nearly a spot-on rendition of Joe Mantegna's "Fat Tony" character from The Simpsons. The dub dialogue was also written very well; there were no lines that felt out of place for the characters or time period.

While the promotional disc did not have the original Japanese language for comparison, there was nothing major in the English dialogue that would cause me to believe that it was significantly altered from the original Japanese dialogue. There were a few spots that did seem like alterations, but there were minor phrases such as the insults Wang and Rico trade with each other.

Overall, eX-Driver is shaping up to be a good title to pick up in the future. With an amusing cast of characters and a simple but solid plot, it is a great title to kick back with a bowl of popcorn and wile away an hour.

In Summary:
While only a promotional disc, eX-Driver the Movie is shaping up to be a solid title. The English dub is one of the better dubs I have heard in recent memory; the voice cast is perfect and infuses their characters with a lot of energy. The plot is simple but solid moving things along at a smooth pace, and the action sequences are exciting without resorting to over-the-top stunts. If the twenty-five minute featurette is as entertaining, Geneon has a winner on its hands. Even after hearing only the English dub, I can easily recommend this title.



Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable

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