It won’t win an Oscar, but that doesn’t mean Patrick Lussier’s follow up to My Bloody Valentine isn’t a bloody fun ride.
There aren’t many actors around that can boast a more chequered career than Nicolas Cage; for every Face/Off, there’s a Bangkok Dangerous and for every Kick-Ass, there’s a Ghost Rider. Unfortunately, too often he appears in films that seem to take themselves a little too seriously which is mainly the problem. Take the recent Season Of The Witch for example. No one could have looked at that film’s synopsis and expected a historically accurate, serious drama, but everyone involved, Cage included, seemed to play it all a bit too straight-laced which manages to turn what could have been an enjoyably diverting medieval horror into an absolute clunker. Fortunately with a title like Drive Angry, that was never likely to be an issue in this instance and as a result, it’s one of the most entertaining cinema trips you’ll have this year.
Put simply, Drive Angry (or Drive Angry 3D to give it its full title) works because it knows precisely what it is: a B-movie with zero consideration to anything high-brow. Cage stars as Milton, a guy who’s escaped from hell intent on avenging his daughter’s death at the hands of crazed cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) who also plans to sacrifice Milton’s grand-daughter on the next full moon. Along for the ride is ballsy waitress Piper (Amber Heard) and on Milton’s tail is The Accountant (William Fichtner) who is determined to make sure Milton ends up back where he belongs.
It goes without saying that with a set up like that, anyone who complains about Drive Angry being OTT is missing the point and clearly in the wrong screening. But just to emphasise the point, the film sets its stall out early with Milton wreaking bloody revenge on a group of people who have had the misfortunate of associating with King. Limbs are amputated with shotgun blasts before everything culminates in a slow-mo shot of Milton walking away with a car exploding in the background, injured man still inside. It’s corny in the extreme but knowingly so, and that’s exactly what helps Drive Angry succeed.
This tone is all helped by the performances of those involved with Cage on great, unhinged form and Amber Heard impresses as the fiery Piper, who is more than willing to get stuck into the fights, capping a fine start to the year for Heard after her strong lead turn in The Ward. Stealing the show however is William Fichtner, hamming it up superbly as the enigmatic Accountant and responsible for the film’s standout ridiculously entertaining sequence involving an inspired use of ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’. He also benefits from being the one ambiguous character in the film in terms of his motives, whereas Billy Burke is the only one who suffers from being too one-dimensional as the evil preacher which we’ve seen many a time before in films.
The schlocky nature of the film is also added to by its use of 3D. If you’ve seen Patrick Lussier’s previous film, My Bloody Valentine, you’ll already know how he treats 3D: none of this depth nonsense, it’s all about stuff coming out the screen. We get bullets, guns, limbs, you name it, coming out, generally in slow-mo just to make sure we capture it and it just adds to the B-movie fun feel of the film. As the marketing campaign is at pains to state, Drive Angry was actually shot in 3D, not retro-fitted, so it looks impressive as well barring some blurring/de-focussing in the climactic scenes, which also incidentally suffers from some particularly dodgy CGI as well dampening the money shots somewhat.
Perhaps wary of how 3D suffers with fast editing, Lussier smartly keeps fast cuts to a minimum as well, resulting in you being able to tell what’s going in during the film’s numerous action scenes. As expected with the title, there are a couple of great sequences with Cage driving, well, angrily after the bad guys but the most memorable action sequence takes place in a motel while Cage is having “fun” with a waitress. Although it bears similar resemblance to a scene from Shoot Em Up, somehow it manages to out-do even that, taking place entirely in almost ultra slow-mo so you can take in all its gory goodness, practically giving the film it’s fully deserving 18 certificate in the process.
In truth, the film does run out of gas, pun intended, towards the end when the climactic battle turns into one endless gun battle with bloody carnage taking precedence over ingenuity, but by then, you’d have had so much fun that you’ll hardly care. It’s a work of demented genius that knows what it is and revels in it and while that might make it have a limited appeal, it certainly proves to be a welcome change of tone to the ‘worthy’, awards season films that have been dominating cinemas recently. The King’s Speech it ain’t, but if you’re looking for a film which has Cage going postal with a gun, Heard looking stunning while kicking ass and Fitchner just looking bad-ass stepping out of a running vehicle, then you couldn’t have come to a better place.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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