Friday, 4 March 2011

Drive Angry (2011)

This will never play at your local art-house cinema.

Image: Lionsgate

Let’s just get this out of the way. All of you who didn’t like My Bloody Valentine 3D, or aren’t partial to any of the cheesier action movies of Nicolas Cage’s career, can just stop reading this review now. If the idea of Cage shooting limbs off a bunch of devil-worshippers and said severed limbs flying at the screen doesn’t pique your interest, you really should stay away. If you think that 3D should be used for a fully immersive experience rather than a cheap gimmick, oh my, you’ll hate this. Everyone else, and we may be addressing the minority of you here, should be in for a good time.

The predictably named John Milton (Cage) busts out of Hell and into the American south. Satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) has killed his daughter and kidnapped his baby granddaughter. He plans to sacrifice her at the next full moon. Can Milton get to her in time, with the help of badass Piper (Amber Heard), and stay ahead of The Accountant (William Fichtner), who’s been sent by Lucifer to bring him back?

Drive Angry is every bit as cheesy as you’d expect, coming as it does from the creative team behind the ludicrous but undeniably entertaining MBV 3D. It’s midnight fun for the gore crowd that knows exactly what it is, and exactly what its audience expects from it. After a surprisingly slow start the film builds to the kind of madness that the premise would suggest. There’s a slow-mo sex scene/gunfight set to The Raveonettes, elaborate car chases, a lot of nudity, hard-boiled one-liners, and a whole lot of hammy acting. The 3D is used surprisingly well, with cars, bullets, blood, and arms coming at you. Of course it’s gimmicky, but that’s sort of the point.

Cage himself keeps it surprisingly low-key in his second film of 2011. He doesn’t quite sleepwalk, but it’s a little surprising to see him so restrained. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Nic Cage B-movie without some flashes of his “crazy-eyes” and some well-delivered zingers. Amber Heard (The Ward, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) impresses again in the tough girl part, and clearly embraces playing a character that beats the crap out of the bad guys rather than a screaming victim. Elsewhere, Billy Burke (Twilight) has no restraint and a True Blood accent as King, while veteran David Morse (The Green Mile, The Rock) lends a little gravitas late in proceedings.

Most fun is William Fichtner (Heat, Prison Break), who has a ball as The Accountant. His character isn’t especially different to the creepy, twitchy, sort-of-smiling characters that he’s played in the past, but he’s never been given the platform he has here. He gets the bulk of the good dialogue and some of the best set-pieces. Business-like but visceral, he’s the character you’ll remember when you leave.

Director Patrick Lussier and writer Todd Farmer knew what they were doing making Drive Angry. They’re preaching to the converted, and mission accomplished. Is it art? No. Is it fun? Yes. You know if you’re going to enjoy this. If you think you might, it won’t disappoint.

We’re not going to pretend that this is a good film in any traditional sense of the word. It’s cheesy, violent, exploitative, and gimmicky. And it’s a hell of a good time.



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