Friday 20 September 2019

Netflix Review: Hyperdrive

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines – Netflix's drift competition Hyperdrive is a wild ride that aims to entertain.

"It's basically Total Wipeout with cars" was how this show was pitched to me by my brother. "Say no more fam," I said, already mentally adding it to the Netflix queue in my brain. As a lifelong fan of motorsport, the offer of a big-budget car-centric competition that apes the likes of Ninja Warrior was too good to ignore, and I duly devoured the whole series in about four days.

Growing up on a steady diet of Need for Speed Underground 2 and Gladiators (only 90s kids will remember), Hyperdrive feels like a concept devised by a computer to sit slap bang in the middle of the Venn diagram that is my mind.

Reality television isn't my thing; I would sooner dig my eyes out with a rusty spoon than sit through dreck like Love Island or The Bachelor. But Hyperdrive is a little different. For starters, the tone is refreshingly earnest and unpretentious. The cast of drivers are supportive of one another and cheer when another succeeds – there's no toxic sniping or hushed bitching backstage. All the rivalries are respectful and settled out on track.

The competition is populated by a grid of 28 colourful characters with international appeal; from a foster father working four jobs to make ends meet to a Polish drifter with a hot pink Ford Mustang. There's a husband and wife drift duo from Germany, an ice-cool Brazilian prodigy, a Texan boy racer by the name of 'Fielding Shredder' and a Japanese drift teacher who pilots a police interceptor, to name but a few. You'll settle on a favourite, but by and large there are no 'villains' who viewers are programmed by the editors to boo and hiss at. Again, it's refreshing.

The show pits them head-to-head in a series of qualifying heats of increasing difficulty, with the fastest advancing through to knockout rounds and then, finally, the finals. When it all comes to a head and each run is a 'do or die' situation, the result is a series of slick and drama-fuelled showdowns. It's breathless stuff to behold.

The show strikes a perfect balance between cosmetics and substance; it's porn for revheads, with a mix of performance cars and tuned imports. Most are cars designed to drift, while others – like a bright blue Lamborghini Huracan – are more adapted to fit the course. As the competition wears on, and the cars take a beating, the competitors have to work on their cars to keep them fighting fit.

You can't spell Hyperdrive without hype, and this is something some viewers may find grating. The American presenters are attuned to that specific brand of sports commentary where everything is 'insane', 'sick', 'beast' or 'tight'. I didn't mind it too much, after a while.

Most of all, I enjoyed Hyperdrive because it's a slick, big-budget version of what the Fast and Furious films have been sorely lacking for a long while. As the series has gone on, the Fast and Furious has drifted (pun intended) away from its roots and strayed more into spy movie territory. In contrast, Hyperdrive, executive produced by Fast and Furious actress Charlize Theron, makes no apologies for being an unpretentious, no-frills competition that is actually about the cars, the skill and the driving.

Far better than it has any right to be, Hyperdrive is an unexpected gem. Earnest and eager to please, this 10-part competition passes by in a flash. The slick production, likeable contestants and inventive challenges are all part of its multifaceted charm, and I can't wait to see where the show goes next.

Hyperdrive is streaming on Netflix now.

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