I never really miss a Nic Cage film. Not sure why. A lot of them are awful, but for some reason, I keep coming back for more. I think a part of me watches his films just to see how bad Cage’s hairpiece du jour is and despite the quality of the film, sue me if I always have fun watching his faux locks flow in dramatic slo mo. Turns out I liked DRIVE ANGRY quite a bit, mostly for the same reasons I liked MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D. While both are somewhat simplistic in the story department, both films have a giant set of brass balls and handle 3-D in a manner that makes the rest of the 3-D films out there look like you’re peeking through a View Finder (BTW, remember those things? I had one when I was a kid and spent hours looking through it. Man, I miss those…but I digress).
DRIVE ANGRY doesn’t try to fool anyone. From the opening scene, it makes it painfully clear that this is not a cerebral film (unless you count brains splattered on a windshield and spewing toward your face in three-dimensions). It is a rock ‘em sock ‘em action film that speeds out of the gate and doesn’t really slow down until the end. In that first scene when Nic Cage rams his car into a pair of thugs’ car then blows them away with a shotgun, you know you’re in store for a campy good time. Now, camp can be fun as long as everyone involved knows it’s camp, plays things straight, and doesn’t make it obvious that it is camp. As soon as there’s a wink to the audience or an acknowledgement that there’s some cheesy shit going on, it usually falls flat on its face. But Cage plays this pretty straight. Delivering lines as if they were Shakespeare, Cage gives a low sensual hug to the world of cheeseball lines made classic in 80’s actioneers. Though most of his lines are cornier than Orville Redenbacher’s shit, he delivers them with conviction and his serious as hell demeanor adds to the fun of this film. I wouldn’t say this was Cage’s best film, but it sure as hell is better than his turn in the Crusades-revising SEASON OF THE WITCH flop from a few weeks ago or the woman punching hilarity/awfulness/awesomeness of WICKER MAN.
Cage plays Milton, who escapes hell in search of the man who seduced/killed his daughter and now has his granddaughter. In hot pursuit is the Accountant played by William Fichtner who is by far the best part of this film as the demon who must bring Milton back to hell. Along the way, Milton runs into the nummy-licious Piper (played by Amber Heard, who was last seen chasing Jesse Eisenberg around his apartment as a sexy zombie in ZOMBIELAND) who tags along for the ride mainly to serve as something hot and curvy to look at for 100 minutes. Along the way, Billy Burke shows up as the object of Cage’s quest. Burke is somewhat miscast here and though he doesn’t do a bad job as the Manson-like cult leader who lures young girls under his thrall, I can’t help but think that a bigger name (possibly Fichtner himself or the wasted David Morse) would have been a better choice for this role. Rounding out the cast is David Morse in a somewhat missed opportunity of a role as he doesn’t really show up until the third act of the film and only serves to get the heroes out of a hole they can’t get out of themselves.
I say, yes. The main reason is that, though this has a fraction of the budget, this film uses 3-D almost as good as if not better than AVATAR. Lussier does a fantastic job of layering this film and giving it a depth I haven’t noticed before in other 3-D films. I’m not just talking about axes flying toward the camera. I’m talking about backgrounds with layers of depth that go on seemingly forever. Simple scenes we’ve seen times before like a car crashing under a bridge provide an endless depth seen in few films before. And as in all good 3-D films, there are plenty of scenes to make you reel back in your seat with that “comin’atcha” feel that Hollywood loves to give off.
On top of that, performances by Fichtner with his droll delivery and especially the scenes with the writer of this film Todd Farmer are a boatload of fun. Farmer (a member of my horror panel in last year’s San Diego Comic Con) once again takes full advantage of being both a writer and actor here by writing himself a nude scene with a beautiful woman as he did in MY BLODDY VALENTINE 3-D (I’d do it and you know, if you could, you would too).
DRIVE ANGRY is a loud and ballsy film. Though it’s more of an actioneer, it is heavy on the gore to satisfy readers of this column’s appetite for horror. Subtlety does not exist in DRIVE ANGRY’s dojo, so don’t go looking for nuance here. Go to this film to have fun and I guarantee you’ll have it.