Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Movie Review: Drive Angry

Drive Angry ***
Directed by:
Patrick Lussier.
Written by: Todd Farmer & Patrick Lussier.
Starring: Nicolas Cage (Milton), Amber Heard (Piper), William Fichtner (The Accountant), Billy Burke (Jonah King), David Morse (Webster), Todd Farmer (Frank), Christa Campbell (Mona), Charlotte Ross (Candy), Tom Atkins (Cap), Jack McGee (Fat Lou), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Roy).

About 30 seconds into Drive Angry, I knew I was in for something a little different for an action movie. This is a film that goes wildly over the top from its first scene, and just continues to go further and further out there as the movie progresses. This film takes no prisoners, and is an old school, 1970s style exploitation film - full of brutal, gory violence, more sex and nudity than any movie in recent memory, and about as much colorful swearing as in GoodFellas. A lot of people with be offended by the movie - accusing it of misogyny or worse - and many others will think it completely ridiculous. I cannot really argue against that, but for me Drive Angry, despite how ridiculous it is, is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in months. If you liked Machete last year, this one is similar, but much, much better.

Perhaps only Nicolas Cage could have made this film work. If I was writer-director Patrick Lussier, and Cage didn’t agree to be in the film, I may not have even bothered to make this movie. Cage takes a lot of crap from critics for his performances - and rightly so, there are few actors of his stature who has as many horrible movies and performances on his resume. But in a movie like Drive Angry, there is no one better, He has no shame - he will go wildly over the top like no other actor out there, and in a film like this, you need that. Cage is brilliant here, as a man who has escaped from hell to try and save his granddaughter from a Satanic cult who murdered his daughter and are planning are sacrificing the baby. Oh, and by the way, he stole a gun called the “God Killer” that can kill anyone, and send them into nothingness - no heaven, no hell, just nothing. So, subtle performances don’t work here. You need to go wildly over the top, and Cage does it brilliantly.

It should also be mentioned that the rest of the cast seems to follow Cage’s lead. Amber Heard plays a waitress with an abusive boyfriend, who ends up on the road with Cage chasing the Satanic cult. She has been the “next big thing” for a while now, and this is the first time where I can say I actually loved her. She is gorgeous, that’s a given, but she does her job her just as she should. Billy Burke also has no shame, going over the top as the Satanic cult leader - how can you not love a villain who uses a femur as a cane. And William Fichtner plays The Accountant - another guy from hell who is there to try and bring Cage back, and he is hilarious.

The violence in the movie is completely unrestrained. People blow up, limbs go flying, jaws fly towards the camera - in 3-D. There is even an extended gun fight that starts when Cage is in mid coitus with Charlotte Ross, and amazingly, it also ends with them in mid coitus. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before, and as ridiculous as it is, it works amazingly well.

Drive Angry was shot in 3-D, and this is the exact type of movie that works in 3-D. It isn’t serious in the least, the 3-D doesn’t detract from the movie at least, and adds to the old school, exploitation vibe of the film. Normally, I hate 3-D, but here it works amazingly well.

No one is going to mistake Drive Angry for a “good movie”. It really isn’t. But as Pauline Kael once said, and I never tire of quoting “Movies are so rarely great art, that if you don’t enjoy trash there is no point in going”. Drive Angry is trash - there is no doubt about that. But it is wonderful trash. If you like films like this, Drive Angry is a must see.

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