Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse
Patrick Lussier, Todd Farmer
How To: Drive Angry;
Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Patrick Lussier & Todd Farmer;
Deleted Scenes with Filmmaker Commentary
"Drive Angry" Review
Believe it or not, I'm actually okay with Drive Angry, Nic Cage's latest modestly budgeted action flick seemingly designed to give Cage maximum bang for his cinematic buck and, perhaps, an effort on the infamously financially troubled actor's part to work his way out of debt by signing on for easily made, low-cost to produce and nearly always profitable action flick fare.
This is not to suggest, of course, that there's anything brilliant about Drive Angry, an action flick actually shot in 3-D as the film's poster advertises loudly and proudly. Unapologetically weird and stylish, Drive Angry centers around a father named John Milton (Cage) who is literally shot out of hell after his daughter and son-in-law are murdered by a Satanic cult leader (Billy Burke) who now plans to sacrifice the left behind infant granddaughter. This p.o.'d dude busts out of hell in one muscle car, joins forces with a hottie waitress (Amber Heard) in yet another and then spends more time in yet another followed closely by one of the Devil's henchmen, "The Accountant." (William Fichtner). Car collectors will likely experience orgasmic delight with these road beasts being brought to life in 3-D.
Sound silly? It is. Fortunately, everyone involved with the production knows it's silly and, strangely enough, it's actually kind of fun even though the story doesn't begin to live up to director Patrick Lussier's stylish special effects and tech wizardry. If Drive Angry wasn't so solid in the tech department, the film would play out much more like a 70's exploitation flick or, perhaps, even a grindhouse flick. This is especially true given William Fichtner's flick-stealing turn as "The Accountant," a character so hilariously and perfectly over-the-top that you just might find yourself wanting to venture on down to hell once this whole thing is over.
You can knock Cage all you want for making flicks like this one, but the simple truth is that nobody makes a bad film better than Nic Cage and Drive Angry is a well made bad film with ample amounts of car chases, body parts flying, F-bombs being tossed about and virtually everyone in the ensemble cast on the same page and managing to turn this destined to suck flick into a surprisingly entertaining and fun time if you can suspend thought and really just go with it for a couple hours.
If anything, Cage may be a bit too normal here - surprisingly underplaying John Milton as a more somber yet vengeful granddaddy with a serious attitude more resembling Charles Bronson's Death Wish days. Yet, he contrasts nicely with the disturbingly awesome Fichtner and the far better than one might expect Amber Heard. The Orlando Sentinel critic Roger Moore describes Heard's performance best when he describes her as "Megan Fox with talent."
Billy Burke rounds out the supporting players quite nicely as a frighteningly convincing cult leader whose sway on his flock is uncomfortably realistic.
Director Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine) utilizes the whole 3-D technology fairly well, though it's difficult to deny that by the film's end the whirling bullets and flying weapons gets a bit tiresome and old. Lussier also scripted the film with Todd Farmer, and it's ultimately the script that keeps this film from really being a stand-out exploitation flick as it never really commits fully to camp and occasionally becomes a downright tiresome action flick saved only by this fantastic ensemble cast.
It's easy to long for the good ole' days when Nic Cage was considered a serious actor and Oscar was knocking on his door, but the simple truth is that America loves THIS Nic Cage and good box office may very well bring the actor back out of debt and, perhaps, back into a few of those critical indie darlings that used to float through his career periodically. The only real beef with Cage's recent tendency towards modest action flicks is that, at times, he's seemed downright disinterested and the director hasn't been able to pull him out of it. For whatever reason, Cage is on the money here and supported by a cast clearly having an awesome time with it all.
It is worth noting that those particularly sensitive to violence/risk involving children may be a bit bothered by Drive Angry, though much of what's presented here is done so over-the-top that it's difficult to actually buy into the peril. There's still, however, an underlying discomfort with the fundamental premise of this young infant at risk, perhaps made more vivid because of the film's convincing perfs.
By the way, isn't it weird to have this flick opening alongside Hollywood's latest Gospel-themed flick The Grace Card?
On this heaven and hell weekend in Hollywood, you get to choose. Heaven may be offer better long-term rewards, but there's little denying that Satan has the best muscle cars.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic