Drive Angry 3D
Release Date: February 25, 2011
Director: Patrick Lussier
Writers: Todd Farmer, Patrick Lussier
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard and William Fichtner
MPAA Rating: R
The most surprising thing about Drive Angry 3D is that somehow it almost works. It has all of the earmarks of a typical lackluster Nicolas Cage “paycheck” movie – ridiculous plot, terrible wig, cheesy dialogue, over-the-top action – and yet the film is self-aware enough to embrace its B-movie status and to just have fun with it. At times, it shows the potential to be a fun modern-day exploitation film, but it never quite comes together and in the end it’s sadly just another bad Nicolas Cage film.
Cage plays John Milton (a clever nod to Paradise Lost that you frankly don’t expect in a film like this), a man who breaks out of prison to rescue his granddaughter from being ritualistically killed by a satanic cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke). Along the way, Milton befriends Piper (Amber Heard), a restless waitress looking for any excuse to leave her one-horse town, even if that excuse involves following an undead man into the camp full of crazy, homicidal Satan worshipers. Tasked with bringing Milton back to Hell is The Accountant (William Fichtner), a demon much more menacing than his name might suggest.
The film is a noisy ode to short shorts, fast cars and graphic violence. It contains copious amounts of nudity and gunplay. There is even a scene where Milton, fully clothed, manages to gun down an onslaught of attackers while having sex with a completely naked woman. (It makes a similar scene in Shoot ‘Em Up look tame by comparison.) The film also gets bonus points for the bad ass gun Milton wields called “The God-killer” that, as the name suggests, is capable of killing demons. Drive Angry also has plenty of eye candy for you car porn enthusiasts out there, including a black 1969 Dodge Charger and a cherry red Chevelle (and Milton does indeed drive angry behind the wheel of both of these cars).
Director Patrick Lussier does all he can to keep the film moving along steadily with quick cuts and plenty of music cues, but despite his best efforts Drive Angry still runs out of steam about three-quarters of the way in. And while he does take advantage of the 3D format (since, unlike a lot of films these days, Drive Angry was actually shot in 3D instead of converted in post production), outside of a few really cool perspective shots, the 3D doesn’t really add much to the film. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that it’s a huge rip-off to charge inflated 3D prices for a glorified B-movie.
The performances in the film are a bit of a mixed bag. Nicolas Cage snarls most of his lines and speaks in a gruff monotone. It’s fine since that is what the role calls for, but it’s still slightly depressing to watch Cage phone in another performance when I know he is capable of so much more. Amber Heard isn’t much of an actor and at times she comes across wooden, but she has enough moxie and enthusiasm to carry her performance most of the time. Billy Burke seems to be having fun chewing scenery in his role as the evil cult leader and David Morse, who in my opinion is a welcome addition to any cast, pops up for a brief, but charming cameo.
By far the best performance and the best character in the film is William Fichtner’s portrayal of The Accountant. It’s frankly a role Fichtner was born to play. Following Milton’s trail, The Accountant strolls from town to town in an expensive suit with a smarmy charisma and a disaffected coolness that makes the character incredibly fun, yet unnerving to watch. He is by far the best part of every scene he’s in and when he isn’t in a scene you find yourself wishing he was.
With a bit more Fichtner and a bit more campiness, the film might just have worked. Sadly though, Drive Angry ends up being nothing more than a few fun scenes and set pieces that don’t add up to a complete film. Nicolas Cage has once again sold his soul to the devil for a paycheck and sadly, one again it just wasn’t worth the price.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.