Running time: 104 min. Rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language. Directed by: Patrick LussierWritten by:Todd Farmer, Patrick LussierStars:Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse, Christa Campbell
Nicolas Cage drives through the other side of Hell and back in Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry 3D. He comes back up slightly singed and holding a shiny new paycheck. As has been the case of late, it’s the audience who pays for it all. Aimed at fans of faux grindhouse sleaze, Drive Angry at least delivers what it promises; explicit well-rendered human carnage, Amber Heard’s curves in three dimensions and the Cagester in one of his most unhinged non-performances. Even if you get distracted by all of that and William Fichtner’s on-point Chris Walken impersonation, you still have to cede that Drive Angry makes a pretty crummy movie.
Leering like Heathcliff fresh off the moors, Dour Nic plays John Milton (har, har!), a rascal on the run from Hell itself. You see, Milton’s been rotting in the big fire pit for an undetermined amount of time (it’s been decades at least) and while he was down there his little girl grew up, joined a cult and then got herself murdered by the leader who stole her baby for a sacrifice that will unleash Hell on Earth. At least, I think that’s what it does. This is the third supernatural thriller I’ve seen in the last four days and I’m starting to think someone is using a Magic 8 ball to write these things. Will Cage survive to the end of the movie with hairpiece intact? Outlook not so good.
So, now Milton has managed to escape, dusting out of the fiery gates in a sweet ride and incurring the wrath—or at least interest—of The Accountant (Fichtner). Think of him as Devil Dog the Bounty Hunter. Just trade out mullet and wifebeaters for a slick suit and the feral eyes of a Wall Street broker. While Fichtner looks to put Milton back in the Easy Bake Oven, John’s heading cross country with hot-to-trot waitress Piper (Heard) who ends up sticking with him on his mission because someone needs to wear those deliriously short shorts and no one wants to sign the Cagester up for that. Everything after this is a blood drenched rinse and repeat of smug one-liners, frantic action scenes and alternating doses of nudity and gore. No doubt, some of you are already sold based on the last line alone.
And if that’s what it takes, then you will probably have a fine time with Drive Angry 3D. It isn’t a good movie. I’m not sure that was ever going to be in the cards. The script isn’t even close to being finished but it’s hard to cry about that in a movie where Cage sits against a voodoo tree and sips beer out of his enemy’s skull like some cracked version of Hamlet. No, this one exists only to indulge its audience’s lust for the more prurient and base elements of its DNA (or is that TNA?). The problem is that even that requires a director who can put together a movie and Patrick Lussier only seems to work in crudely stitched patchwork pieces. This is the same man who made Dracula 2000 and My Bloody Valentine 3D and there’s still little proof he’s learned how to handle a genre film as it deserves.
Yes, there’s a completely off kilter scene where a fully clothed Milton swigs whiskey and kills waves of incoming goons all while slo-mo copulating with a big-breasted waitress skank in a seedy hotel room. Every time Cage dispatches someone he cocks his head to the side and gazes insanely out at the audience while a guitar goes twanging off in the distance. There’s an unmistakable feeling that he’s channeling his Wild At Heart character or maybe Castor Troy by way of Cameron Poe.
Heard is smoking hot as the movie requires but she’s not doing much else than to be the shiny bauble that complements the dark howling abyss that has become Nicolas Cage. All of the cultists, demons, and deviants that stalk through the film are just there so Nic can share the screen with someone. Afterall, a movie called Drive Angry that only featured Cage talking to himself might not be that much fun. Then again, who knows?
For me, once the insanity dials down and Cage has put away his crazy eyes for a few moments, there’s nothing up on screen of interest. When the dust settles, Drive Angry proves to be a right disappointment. The 3D works well enough, despite being chaotic enough to inspire a migraine, and the action is frequent if not always stirring. The problem comes down to the lack of cohesiveness and dedication to the concept.
Here’s a film that introduces classic rock music, sexy 70’s cars, doomed dads, demonic enforcers, prison breaks from Hell, and an antique weapon designed to kill otherworldly evil. So, basically, all the elements that factor into the CW’s series Supernatural. The difference is that show—limited by the constraints of network television—is far more daring, entertaining and even emotional than any five minutes of Drive Angry. I guess even a crazed Cage isn’t always enough to make the difference.