In the vein of the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez throwback extravaganza Grindhouse, Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry aims to entertain through sheer ridiculousness. Filled with over-the-top set pieces, hammy dialogue and (intentionally?) cheesy special effects, the film succeeds admirably in places while failing miserably in others at providing an over-the-top ride.
The story (as if it really matters) follows John Milton, a man who clearly has an axe to grind – or rather a gun to fire repeatedly – over the death of his daughter and the kidnapping of his granddaughter. To get revenge he has broken out of hell (as you do…) much to the annoyance of “the devil’s right hand man” a.k.a. The Accountant (William Fichtner). While on his travels to find the one responsible for woes, he meets up with a former waitress (Amber Heard) who wants to escape her life under the control of her cheating, abusive husband.
As I said, the plot doesn’t really matter here as the attention and focus is clearly placed on the exaggerated action and visuals. This is where the film both succeeds and fails. There are definitely moments when the ridiculousness of it all is why it’s fun, whether it be body parts being blown off all over the place (and flying out of the screen at us overblown 3D) or slow motion shoot-outs that are as preposterous as they are enjoyable. However, there are other moments (and these unfortunately make up the majority) where the ridiculousness is just plain silly, so silly in fact that they cease to be enjoyable and are simply eye-rolling.
Nicolas Cage – the half-terrible-half-fantastic actor who seems to have split personality when it comes to choosing roles – is thankfully on the right side of ridiculous here, turning the overblown up to 11. He is clearly having a lot of fun playing this role, spouting dialogue that wouldn’t be out of place in a cheap video game and blasting away anything with a pulse that happens to step into his peripheral vision.
That is except for, of course, the young woman who inadvertently joins him on his mission for revenge. Although Heard joins in on the action more than one would think, she is merely there to provide eye-candy for the male audience which, let’s face it, will make up most of those watching the film. The film often verges dangerously close to being plain sleazy with how it portrays her character but thankfully never crosses the line, keeping that sort of attitude for the violence.
Speaking if violence, the film has plenty to speak of so those looking for that sort of thing will more than get their fill. The film is filled with all manner of violence from gun play to fist fights, with enough bloody visuals to please any gore hound. This is definitely not for those who like their action “safe” as so many films of the genre are these days.
Alongside Cage and Heard, the supporting cast includes the likes of William Fichtner (who’s easily the best thing about the movie, delivering line-after-line of satirical dialogue that somehow seems cool when he says it), Billy Burke (a.k.a. the awkward dad from the Twilight franchise) and David Morse, who turns up for maybe 10 minutes and whose talents are wasted on a pointless character thrown in as some half-hearted attempt to give meaning to Cage’s revenge crusade.
A quick note must be given to the 3D element. All of the ads boast, rather cleverly considering the type of action film it is, that the film is “shot in 3D” (get it?). This is in order to separate it from all the lackluster “converted after the fact” 3D movies that plague cinemas nowadays. But the ironic thing is that although the 3D is done well technically here, it still has the same “things coming out of the screen at you for no reason” gimmick that wears thin within the first few scenes. The likes of Toy Story 3, How To Train Your Dragon and even Piranha 3D to some extent all utilized that extra dimension well last year but the same can’t be said for Drive Angry.
Drive Angry is half really fun, half silly and eye-rolling. It doesn’t always achieve its goal of being camp without having the joke be on it – most of the time you’re left laughing at the film rather than with it. Still, there are enough moments to be found here to make it worth a look, thanks largely to the shackles being loose with the 18 age rating (R in the U.S.). If nothing else the film adds yet another ridiculous character – and not to mention hairdo – to Cage’s resume.