Drive Angry 3D Directed by: Patrick Lussier Cast: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins Rating: R Release Date: February 25, 2011
PLOT: A grandfather (Cage) escapes from hell and chases after the men who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter.
WHO'S IT FOR?: This proudly “R”-rated popcorn flick is best for those who enjoy making casual trips to the latest action or horror movie of the week (this one combines the two). Drive Angry could be the source of fun for fans of either genre if they leave their brains and expectations back in the garage.
EXPECTATIONS: Though he’s become the new Samuel L. Jackson of movies, (seemingly being in every flick, ever) Nicolas Cage is a lot smarter than he acts (literally). Hopefully this would be a role in which he presents some his awareness to the ridiculousness, while contributing to some badass awesomeness featuring delicious (and however brainless) 3D chaos.
Nicolas Cage as Milton: The Cagemaster puts the “Grand” in “grandpa” as Milton, a pissed off man in black with awesome driving and simultaneous shotgun firing skills. Wearing Oakley shades and a hairdo only comparable to spaghetti, Cage is only half-funny as a character that, were he to work with other attitudes, could be knocked out of the park. Instead, it’s as if he was asked to do an impersonation of Con-Air Nicolas Cage, but without the emotion (or stuffed bunnies). He speaks his spare dialogue as if the lines bothered him, and he also didn’t want to say them out loud. Cage’s fantastic performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans reminded audiences that he truly is smarter than some of his choices, yet that wit is lost here. Midway through the film, as he’s taking down numerous bad guys with little grit behind his trigger pulling, it’s as if he’s lost grasp of the sarcasm that makes up this hell-born killing machine named Milton. Score: 5
Amber Heard as Piper: She cusses like a professional, beats the crap out of people, and hops on board with Milton’s wild killing spree because it “gives her meaning.” Even her sexual dynamics aren’t obvious. Piper may not be the best female character ever written, but damned if this movie doesn’t deserve credit for giving us something new in a sidekick. Heard gives an invigorating performance in this type of role that could’ve become typical. This doesn’t happen. Instead, it can be (for the most part, when it doesn't drop off) a nice surprise. Hello, Hollywood - more characters like this, please. Score: 6
Rest of Cast: William Fichtner plays a mysterious “assassin” on the trail of Milton named “The Accountant.” Fichtner does well with the sarcasm of the movie, and becomes an amusing force to watch even when he resembles a robot with sullen eyes. Billy Burke plays Jonah King, a self-proclaimed messiah at the top of Milton’s hitlist. As a main villain, Burke is acceptable, yet the character is so simple and his ideology so undefined that it can’t help but seem lackluster. That is one killer soul patch for a Satanist, though. Score: 5
TALKING: The dialogue is rocky in that its never sure whether it wants to be purposefully terrible or just flat. There are a couple of odd lines like Milton swearing off beer “not until I’m drinking out of Jonah King’s skull,” but none of these really stick. Even last week’s Unknown had a single zinger which was more everlasting in its greatness. Here, it’s too many flat-liners like Milton’s decisive “I’m driving.” Score: 4
SIGHTS: Director Patrick Lussier, who also has the remake of My Bloody Valentine on his 3-D horror filmography, continues exploring his fascination with presenting lasting nudity in the third dimension. As for being a movie advertised as “shot in state of the art 3D,” Drive Angry still doesn’t demand a viewing strictly in that format. It will better be remembered for its decent action-conscious cinematography, which includes a whole arsenal of tricks – slow motion, extreme close-ups on gun barrels before a bullet explodes out of them, computer generated debris flying at the audience etc. These techniques aren’t very fresh (and Cage does walk away from an explosion, the second to happen in this recent movie month), but it does fulfill the genre’s demand to soak up and heighten the size of violence in any way possible. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Drive Angry passes on its chance to put its pedal to the metal by resorting to generic bar rock to pump up the volume during action scenes, instead of music with some f**kin’ attitude. Though it might be expected, where the hell is AC/DC, or even the AC/DC rip-off bands? Peaches’ funny but explicit song “F**k the Pain Away” is used once, but this is where the dirty fun of the Drive Angry soundtrack ends. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: Milton’s introduction throws Drive Angry’s balls to the wall, and starts things off with a couple of loud bangs. A surprising bit of gross-out violence is always a good way to get things moving into high gear.
ENDING: I’d watch the sequel, especially if it offers a bigger glimpse into the world seen at the very end. Hell, I’d watch the prequel too.
QUESTIONS: Who else could have played Milton? Was Nicolas Cage always the top choice? Was this movie pitched as "Pink Cadillac but with Satanists"?
REWATCHABILITY: The thrill of Drive Angry likely comes from its surprising elements. The action is too redundant to make this appealing for a second viewing. I’d only see it again to further analyze its handling of some prevalent “Grindhouse-ian” elements.
Even with the potential of 3D, Drive Angry’s overall servings of action can be underwhelming. This is especially the case if you’ve ever seen Shoot ‘Em Up, Fast and Furious or even Pink Cadillac (if you’re in the theater seats, chances are you have, for at least the first two). But, Drive Angry is an action movie made by horror junkies ... so maybe they just missed those aforementioned flicks, and didn’t know that such “stunts” have been done before, ... barely three years ago.
Drive Angry has the same problem that a lot of modern horror movies seem to be facing, in that they simply take too much of themselves too seriously. Midway through the movie, Drive Angry disappointingly loses its winking eye. Cage’s lines lose their spark (i.e he is little fun), Heard is reduced to a recurring hostage, and the bang-bang moments lack any real pulse. The movie then shifts back and forth between a limbo line of a heavenly blast of B-movie fun, and half-fulfilling action that typically comes from Hollywood hell. It’s as if Drive Angry goes in circles trying to figure itself out.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10