REVIEW: Drive Angry 3D [2011]

Score: 5/10 | ★ ★

Rating: R | Runtime: 104 minutes | Release Date: February 25th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Director(s): Patrick Lussier
Writer(s): Todd Farmer & Patrick Lussier

“Please … aim fer their tires”

You have to respect a man who seems to love his work. Why else would Nicolas Cage, an actor so full of talent and skill at his craft—see Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation.—continuously partake in endeavors that are for all intents and purposes unworthy of an audience? It has to be because he finds pleasure in greasing up whatever obscene hairdo he currently has and appropriating that redneck drawl he so loves. There is something to becoming caricatures and wreaking havoc onscreen, being evil incarnate with some of the craziest eyes in the business, and finding a way to turn his murderous rampages into journeys of redemption for love his characters shouldn’t be allowed to have. But what I enjoy most about Cage is that he will do any genre, no matter how insane its mix of styles, archetypes, or clichés. It’s one thing to choose to be in a schlocky, B-movie actioner, but totally another to revel in its supernatural plot dealing with heaven and hell. A father avenging his daughter’s death by finding his kidnapped granddaughter is just too simple for a beast like Drive Angry 3D.

Writer/director Patrick Lussier continues his foray out of the editing chair with a second 3D film, this time advertised as ‘Shot In 3D’, so I have to imagine it used much better tech than his previous My Bloody Valentine 3D—the latter of which I saw in theatres. Watching his latest from the comfort of my home doesn’t do justice to the format because there are so many camera angles and prop bits that live and die by the gimmick. Seeing a tire iron fly towards the screen or having a bullet beeline outwards is laughable if not coupled with the third dimension of interactivity. And the horrible effects work—whether computer generated automobiles or shoddy green screen work when the actors are driving or walking amongst chaos—is only exacerbated without the dimming effect of glasses and the motion blur helping to soften the edges. It’s a shame too since the aesthetic could easily have gone into Robert Rodriguez territory, where the old school look harkened back to grindhouse days long gone. Instead it’s merely an example of new technology done on the cheap, distracting from even the most outlandish story happening around it.

The film isn’t only a case of revenge on those who’ve harmed family; no, it also concerns the laws of otherworldly creatures from hell. Cage’s Milton has escaped from prison to kill the man he dreamt killed his daughter. Jonah King (Billy Burke), a satanic cult leader looking to bring hell on earth for a bid at immortality, preyed on the naivety of his followers and took Milton’s newborn granddaughter to be sacrificed for his Lord. Thus this grieving, maliciously dangerous granddad returns to seek retribution, a willingness to put himself in danger apparent and an ancient, smoking, five-barreled handgun resting in its wooden home on his cruiser’s backseat. A hick with principles and a need for speed, his yearning for the Chevelle resting in a coffeeshop’s parking lot leads towards the befriending of Piper (Amber Heard), a hot little thing with a short fuse and take-no-crap attitude. After a run-in with her scumbag fiancé, the two show each other what they’re made of and embark on the trek across country from Colorado to Louisiana in search of King. But they aren’t alone on the road as a mysterious enigma calling himself The Accountant (William Fichtner) is never far behind.

Reminiscent of Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s one-track mind antihero being chased by the seemingly undefeatable, all-powerful villain, Milton’s badassery is only as good as his distance from The Accountant’s black magic show. With a tagline as on-the-nose as ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’, you can imagine what prison Milton had been a part of—the name itself a not-so-subtle nod to an author on the subject—and where Fichtner’s calm, cool cucumber of violence has left to scoop him back up. We in the audience are thrust into this world of opposite outlooks on the whole fire and brimstone, watching as two creatures intimately involved in its inner-workings seek out a deluded man intent on finding out what he believes is true about the big red behemoth with a pitchfork. And through the sprinklings of our nightmarish musings on the underworld with the screenwriters’ interpretations of its reality, we also partake in a graphically bloody, four-letter word haven of vulgarity that is Drive Angry’s central plotline. There are many not-so-innocent bystanders that get in the way of Milton’s mission and none are spared from his wrath or that of the others sticking their heads where they don’t belong.

We’ve got State Troopers, back-alley townies of whores and drunks, (Pruitt Taylor Vince needed more to do), pentagram-branded lemmings converging to the flame, and the rest of the fodder for ripped limbs and splattered fluids flying at the screen. Everything is completely outlandish right on through the poor dialogue, the too-smart quips from Cage like, “Who do you think you are, Loki?” and “Who do you think you are, Anubis?” that he throws at Fichtner, and the unabashed outlook on gratuitous nudity—yes, one big fight sequence occurs while Cage is still inside his evening conquest, blowing away all who enter the room while holding her tight. Mix in a little sex appeal from Heard and her sensual body language from start to finish and you can see what the target demographic Summit Entertainment aimed to collect. Cage somehow still finds a way to not find the joke, playing Milton as though what’s happening is the most serious script ever written; Heard toes the line of authenticity and absurdity the best; and Fichtner plays up his hellish abilities to full throttle, owning every second with his snide smile and ever-present wink alluding to his complete acceptance in what is happening. If you embrace that wink, you’ll acquire some of that fun too. Maybe.

[1] (L to R) AMBER HEARD and NICOLAS CAGE star in DRIVE ANGRY 3D Photo: Ron Batzdorf © 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
[2] WILLIAM FICHTNER stars in DRIVE ANGRY. Photo Credit: Ron Batzdorf © 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
[3] Amber Heard stars as Piper in Summit Entertainment’s Drive Angry (2011)

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