Drive Angry, directed by My Bloody Valentin 3D’s Patrick Lussier, opens with a CGI hot-rod jumping the gates of hell. From this opening, you know what you are about to see exists in a hyper-real comic book world where the laws of physics are bent and folded like a wet noodle. Sadly, this works against the films many car chase scenes. When a car slams against another and flips through the air as if it’s on guide wires, the scene loses its visceral impact and feels empty. In a movie where 80% of it takes place in cars, the chase scenes should have a sense of speed and power. In Drive Angry, they often look and feel like they were taken from an 80’s episode of T.J. Hooker. This is a shame, too, since much of the rest of the film is a lot of fun.
Nicolas Cage plays the ever so cleverly (excuse the sarcasm) named John Milton. Milton is a man on a mission that not even hell can keep him from accomplishing. He is a bad-ass, boot stompin’, mutha’ that can fuck a woman and take out the bad guys at the same time without ever missing a thrust. After escaping from hell, Milton begins tracking down the cult leader that killed his daughter and intends to use his infant granddaughter as a sacrifice.
Along the way, he meets and partners with the sassy and feisty Piper, played by the sexy and talented Amber Heard. As Piper, when Heard says she’s gonna’ kick someone’s ass, you believe it. She is the linchpin that holds the film together and manages to steal the show while doing so.
Chasing behind them is The Accountant, an enigmatic figure that has followed Milton to earth, and is determined to drag him back to hell. Played by the great character actor William Fichtner, The Accountant is a fun and charismatic figure that has more depth than what we are first led to believe. Fichtner is one of the highlights of the film, and along with Heard, brings a true sense of fun to the proceedings.
The villain of the piece is the Charles Manson like figure of Jonah King and his dozens of followers. King, as played by Billy Burke, is one of the larger problems of the film. He is supposed to be a charismatic leader, but there is nothing charismatic nor frightening about him. He is mostly just there, and in a movie where the protagonists are turned up to an eleven, the villain needs to come across as more than a three.
There is very little new here. The story borrows heavily from comics, TV shows, video games, movies (Race With the Devil FTW) and novels that will be very familiar to many genre fans, but the momentum at which the story is told is fun and only drags in a few spots. The writers, Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier, weren’t trying to break any new territory with Drive Angry, but they did give the film lots of punchy and fun dialog that only falters in a few groan-worthy spots.
The film has some decent blood and gore, accomplished with both practical and digital effects. The 3D, having been shot in 3D, looks good and is used to good effect in several action-sequences, but is nothing that should make you rush out to see it in 3D.
I wish I could whole-heartedly recommend Drive Angry, but there are a few major problems with the film. Mainly it comes down to the car chase scenes. They just don’t have much momentum and feel as if the vehicles are driving on flat tires. Remember the power and speed you felt watching Tarantino’s Death Proof, well that’s what this film could have used.