“Drive Angry” Infuriates

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Early on in “Drive Angry” Nicolas Cage’s character, Milton, gets into a gunfight, brutally killing several men. While having sex. And drinking whiskey. When he has finished, he simply gets up, zips up his pants (as he “never disrobes before a gunfight”) and leaves, without even spewing a corny one-liner. That single scene encapsulates the entirety of “Drive Angry 3D”: fun to watch, but over the top, vulgar, incredibly violent and dumb. Quite dumb.

At its core, this is a standard revenge flick. Cage’s character, who has “broken out of hell” somehow, is trying to save his infant granddaughter from being ritually sacrificed by a devil-worshiping cult whose leader, Jonah King (“Twilight’s” Billy Burke), brutally murdered Milton’s only daughter. Along the way he hitches up with Piper, a tough young waitress with a badass ride, played by Amber Heard. All the while, Cage is pursued by The Accountant (William Fitchner), a ruthless and incredibly powerful, if unimposing demon, tasked with bringing Milton back to the pit below.

What follows is a series of fairly formulaic gunfights and car chases, in which Nicolas Cage kills hundreds of these redneck, gun-toting, Satan-worshiping cultists, in a variety of gory and sadistic ways.

The quality of acting in “Drive Angry” is a mixed bag. Burke does a great job at portraying the creepy but charismatic and ultimately completely evil and insane cult leader. He delivers such over-the-top lines as “I will kill you, and then defile your corpse” with no hesitation.

Fitchner is wonderful as The Accountant, nonchalantly tossing baseball bats through heads and driving tanker trucks into police blockades. His utter disregard for human life is somehow entertaining to watch, and he more or less makes the movie.

However, Heard is simply okay as Piper. She plays the “tough chick” role surprisingly well, has a few memorable moments and actually holds her own in the shootouts and fight scenes. However, her character is generally quite two-dimensional and, at the end, quite forgettable.

Even worse, Nicolas Cage is completely wooden in this role, with absolutely none of the lovable insanity we have come to expect from him. This was by far the most disappointing aspect of the film. Anyone who has seen “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” knows that Cage is capable of portraying completely outrageous, over-the-top characters, a fact which makes his almost disinterested performance in “Drive Angry” that much more unacceptable. He certainly could have hammed it up, but did exactly the opposite instead.

Similarly, the plot of “Drive Angry” leaves quite a bit to be desired, even with the lower standards that modern action movies attempt to meet nowadays. The movie lacks any sort of real exposition or beginning. There is a vague shot of a muscle car driving away from a hellish background, and then Cage is blowing away cultists with a shotgun. This doesn’t come across as interesting or clever, just sloppy. Also, the end drags on a bit, with the entire end scene being a bit anticlimactic. Furthermore, (mild spoiler) a certain death at the end is incredibly silly, and unfortunately, not in an entertaining way.

While both Cage’s performance and some aspects of the plot are certainly lackluster, the visuals, thankfully, are not. Director Patrick Lussier actually shot the movie using 3-D cameras rather than digitally converting the movie in post-production, and the extra effort shows. This is some of the best 3-D seen to date, certainly comparable with “Avatar” in quality. In particular, one scene, in which a 3-D flashback is played over a shot of Cage driving, is quite memorable. It’s an interesting effect, although a bit silly.

Overall, I really can’t recommend this film. It isn’t campy enough to be considered a good “B movie,” unlike Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete” (a much better film that it seems to take a lot of inspiration from), but neither the acting nor the story is good enough for it to be taken seriously as a normal action movie. It wouldn’t have been hard to make this a stupid yet entertaining, gory action flick, but it misses even that low target.

Unfortunately, this movie takes itself too seriously, which is kind of absurd for a movie with a title like “Drive Angry.” Maybe, if you crave nuevo-grindhouse absurdity, can’t wait for “Hobo with a Shotgun” (which, if early Sundance reviews are to be believed, will be amazing), and have extra cash and low expectations, “Drive Angry” would be worth seeing. Otherwise, avoid this movie.

Rating: 2/5 Stars