What’s the perfect mental palate cleanser before the Oscars®? An over the top extravaganza of car chases, gratuitous nudity and one’s creative expression in the realms of violence. Drive Angry provides all three – in very good 3D that doesn’t blur or smudge during the action scenes [which is kinda crucial – the film is about 90% action sequences].
The film opens with a CG sequence of a car accelerating out of Hell and then jumps right into some extreme violence as John Milton [Nicolas Cage] – who seems to share only his name with the poet – shoots, maims and generally terrorizes a group of thuggish types to learn where someone has gone.
The one man he leaves alive soon finds himself being questioned – none too gently – by a weird, pale, skinny guy in an expensive suit. He calls himself The Accountant, and he wants to know where Milton went.
Shortly thereafter, Milton finds himself in a diner – where a lusty brunette waitress [Katy Mixon] comes on to him, while her shift mate, a blonde named Piper [Amber Heard],is giving a hungry little boy some day-old muffins. Her boss objects in manner that is pretty sexist and she cuts him off at the… well, anyway, let’s just say she pays for the muffins and quits.
In the parking lot, her car, a 98 Charger, won’t start. Enter Milton who offers to fix it in return for a lift. She drops him off at the motel where she lives with her fiancé, but he’s an ass – leading to a fight that brings Milton back, and they set off together.
As Milton and Piper drive on, we learn that Milton is after a cult leader named Jonah King [Billy Burke], an evil bastard who killed his daughter and is planning to kill his granddaughter. So we’ve got Milton and Piper after King and The Accountant after Milton. In between, there is blood, guts, and all manner of mayhem – some involving an ancient pistol called The Godkiller.
Although there are some pauses for breath, and the introduction of someone who knows Milton is dead because he helped carry the coffin [a lovely little role for David Morse], it’s all in service of Milton finding his granddaughter and saving her from King. Even though it turns out that King’s killing of the baby will open the prison gates of Hell and unleash it on Earth, that doesn’t matter to Milton – who doesn’t even believe it’s possible.
Co-written by director Patrick Lussier [the surprisingly good My Bloody Valentine 3D] – with Todd Farmer [My Bloody Valentine 3D] – Drive Angry gives us more than the required daily dose of B-movie crassness and sheer, bloody fun. It moves like a bat out of Hell – which, technically, is a pretty accurate summation of both Milton and Cage’s performance as Milton – and everyone involved is pitch perfect.
Farmer and Lussier even sneak in bits that feel so right you wonder why they haven’t been done before – especially in the aftermath of a bloody gun battle between Milton and a bunch of King’s followers, while he’s having sex with Candy [Charlotte Ross, NYPD Blue], a buxom barmaid [a scene which recalls a sequence in Shoot ‘Em Up]. After the bloodbath is over, Candy is not doing well – in fact she’s having a complete meltdown! Little moments of realistic response to outrageous events help keep Drive Angry on track.
The 3D is actually very good, though somehow Lussier manages not to throw everything at you. As he did with My Bloody Valentine 3D, he finds a good balance between throwing stuff at the audience and letting the 3D enhance the world he‘s creating. Which is not say that the 3D isn’t occasionally cheesy [this is a b-movie, after all]. The opening and closing sequences involve a CG version of Hell and, frankly, it’s closer in spirit to the CG effects in Syfy’s original movies than Avatar. This means that they are perfect for this movie.
The movie’s stars are all in tune with the tone of the film, though only Fichtner matches Cage’s crazy intensity. In fact, there are moments when he almost steals the movie from Cage. Even Heard has some good gonzo moments – watch for the hoe. That’s all I need say about that.
I strongly doubt that Drive Angry 3D will make a lot of money, but it’s a must-see for any real fan of B-movie gloriosity.
Final Grade: B