By: Addison Wylie
It’s understandable that some movie goers are frustrated at Nicholas Cage’s recent filmography. Some would say that he seems to be phoning in performances or that he seems to be taking any role that comes his way no matter how dull or campy that character may be. These are probably the same people who watched the trailer for Drive Angry, scoffed at it, shook their head in Cage’s direction, and turned the other cheek. I’ll see anything and even I looked at the trailer and winced. However, I gave it a chance and if these other skeptical patrons gave Drive Angry the chance, they would be in for a silly but fun ride that showcases Cage’s sense of humor.
John Milton, played by the relentless Cage, is dead, in Hell, and fuming (pardon the pun). Not only has his daughter been attracted towards a dangerous cult where she was later killed, but the cult leader Jonah King, played by Billy Burke, has plans for Milton’s granddaughter. After killing Milton’s daughter, King kidnaps the infant and thinks that sacrificing the baby in a Satanic ritual would be a step in the right direction. As soon as John finds out about King’s plan, Milton escapes Hell and is determined to get revenge. While on his mission, Milton meets up with a backwoods waitress named Piper, played by Amber Heard, who joins Milton in his adventure. While the two try to track down the murderous cult, someone who goes by the name of The Accountant is tracing Milton’s every move in order to find his whereabouts and take him back to where he belongs. The Accountant is played phenomenally by William Fichtner.
The cast and minds behind Drive Angry have just enough of their tongue in cheek. The players are never winking towards the audience but it appears they understand the outlandish nature of the film. In a film about someone rising from Hell to avenge a death, how can you not know? The cast, however, plays everything straight and gives it their all. The attitude everyone involved in the motion picture seems to wear on their sleeves seems to be the following: if the line readings or any of the action set pieces turn out to be unintentionally funny, so be it; as long as the audience is having a blast watching what unfolds on screen.
And it works.
The script written by Todd Farmer and Director Patrick Lussier is crazy from the get go but that self awareness is in tact which makes a large portion of Drive Angry very enjoyable. One problem though that arises from the script is that it feels long winded; especially towards the last third. Perhaps the flawed villain is to blame. Burke’s cult leader character starts off as menacing but as he talks about the cult, his stature, and his motives, his presence wears thin and he appears as less of a threat. In fact, it’s Fichtner’s Accountant scene stealing persona that gives off more of an unsettling vibe. Fichtner spits out one liners and his delivery of each crack or threat is spot on and sometimes very funny for intentional reasons. Fichtner also carries out most of the gory deaths which makes an audience feel disturbed with his presence and, thus, we’re entranced while also on our defence whenever he lights up the screen. David Morse shows up as Milton’s friend Webster but because of how sparsely written the character is, Morse is wasted.
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As the film’s subtitle suggests, the film was shot using 3D technology. However, as I sat in the theatre watching a 2D print, I couldn’t help but wonder where the film would benefit with a 3D perspective. Much like Lussier’s last 3D outing My Bloody Valentine 3D, this film works perfectly fine in 2D. There are a couple gimmicks where objects such as shrapnel and guns are shoved towards the screen but other than those few instances, nothing else really screams “3D!”. With Valentine and now Drive Angry, I could sense Lussier’s passion for older, campy drive in horrors. Perhaps the only reason the Director is bothering with the 3D technology is because he was a fan of those schlocky movies and that mood those films inspired. He does a great job emulating that nostalgic feel.
Whether you see Drive Angry in 3D or you attend a regular, two-dimensional screening, the film is pure escapism. It may be even more fun if you see it with a lot of your friends. I saw Drive Angry late at night in a theatre full of people wanting an action movie that wasn’t anything too deep. If that’s what you and your buddies are looking for, Drive Angry is your answer. As for Lussier, after his last two attempts at popcorn entertainment, I cannot wait to see what other action/horrors he has up his sleeve. And Nicholas Cage? Just when I think we might be losing a great actor, he stars in something like this or Kick Ass or the latest Bad Lieutenant film and my confidence is restored. We’re never going to lose Cage and as long as he’s having fun while inserting his sense of humour into the role, I can most certainly expect his characters to please me.