dir: Patrick Lussier
Drive Angry. Drive Angry 3D, no less. A film that, in any just universe, would have been the last 3D flick ever made, because it finally displayed in a definitive form just how wretched and pointless the format is.
This isn’t a just universe we live in, though, as you should well know by now. According to this flick, however, there is some kind of eternal balance sheet at work, with debits and credits just itching to be calculated.
If you want to know whether it’s possible for you to enjoy this flick, this is the litmus test for you: the premise of the flick is that a bad, bad man called John Milton (Nicolas Cage) breaks out of Hell in order to save his granddaughter from some loathsome cultists. They never explain how, but they just explained why.
If you’re the kind of person who then sits there in the cinema muttering under your breath “Well, how the fuck did he get out?”, perpetually dissatisfied and disgruntled because of that lack of crucial explanation, then nothing that comes after will seem at all tolerable. No manner of shootings or blood spattered breasts will satisfy that niggling voice in your head with such a mindset.
If you are, on the other left, Satanic hand, the kind of person who accepts that very trashy action flicks don’t exist because of a rigorous adherence to Earth logic and sensible thinking, then you might possibly glean that it doesn’t fucking matter as long as Nicolas Cage shoots a lot of motherfuckers and a lot of shit blows up real good.
Me, little old me, well, I’m a blend of the two positions. I can truly appreciate trashy-as-fuck flicks that deliberately set out to be 70s exploitation flicks, but I’m also the kind of nerdy shmuck who sits there stewing over details other saner people couldn’t give a fat rat’s fuckhole about.
How did Nicolas Cage burst forth from the gates of Hell? Well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he did. And he’s out for revenge. Sorry, REVENGE!
On John Milton’s trail is a very strange minion of Satan’s, being The Accountant (William Fichtner), he who accounts for the all the souls owed to His Satanic Majesty. He is a curious mixture of casually murderous fiend and prissy, genteel bloodhound. I’m not sure if it was intentionally swishy, or just odd for the sake of oddness, but it’s possible William Fichtner, who is a tremendous actor (usually tending towards the kinds of roles Christopher Walken used to get) just played the single greatest and most pointless character in the history of human art.
He brings the quirk and the strange in a flick where you’d think Cage was going to monopolise the crazy. But he doesn’t. Mostly, he’s in action man mode, which means speaking in a cool monotone and killing people dead with nary a facial expression. He does get one insanely stupid scene where he has sex with a ‘seasoned’ barmaid and shoots as many people as he has bullets. He, for purely visual reasons, decides not to pull out until he’s finished shooting.
It’s an odd refutation of the whole withdrawal method concept.
It gets the job done, though. The leathery waitress seems exhausted and confused, so I’m going to assume Milton’s prowess with weapons solved all outstanding issues and ticked all the requisite boxes.
I haven’t mentioned the other main leg of this stylishly trashy stool – some generic girl in daisy dukes who talks and acts like the most generic possible All American Girl, who I can’t really believe was real. The usual line trotted out at times like this would be something like “she’s so bad that porno actresses could out-act her”, but it would be redundant. She looks and acts like she’s constructed from random bits of porn actresses, and talks like it too. The actress is called Amber Heard, the character was called Piper, but I suspect she might have entirely been a computer generated effect.
She does get to shoot a few people, though, and, lucky for her, she doesn’t have to simulate having sex with Nicolas Cage.
The real villain of the piece, you’d think, would be Old Nick, Old Scratch, the Father of Lies, Bubbly Beezy, His Satanic Majesty Himself, but instead it is the strangest amalgam of suicide cult leader Jim Jones and an Elvis impersonator, in the form of Johnny King (Billy Burke). He, like many of the other characters, looks like an amalgamation, an accretion of 70s looks and clichés, and he acts like it too. Most of all, the actor seems to be gleefully enjoying the fact that he’s in a role where he doesn’t have to play the retarded police chief father in the Twilight movies, or the retarded peasant father with a secret in Twilight-ripoff Red Riding Hood.
Instead, and this is a step up for him, he plays the (hypothetically) charismatic leader of a cult that is planning, as its piece de résistance, to sacrifice Milton’s granddaughter in order to, I am not sure: make puppies rain from the sky? Turn all the cult members into ponies? Turn gold into lottery tickets?
It, like so many other metaphysical questions, doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that not only is the stupid cult planning to sacrifice a child, but that Johnny King also murdered Milton’s daughter.
And, if you look and act like Nicolas Cage, you don’t let that kind of shit slide, do you? No, you resolve to hunt down and brutally kill anyone and everyone associated with these dastardly acts.
Most of the time he’s content to run them down with a selection of awesome vintage muscle cars. The best one is the Charger. I’m sorry, I have no idea about cars, can’t claim to pretend to be an expert on them, and equate car obsessions with trainspotters, sport cranks and stamp collectors, but there’s something still very awesome about that car.
The things they do to that poor car, though, are a crime worse than almost anything else the flick does, including its overall assault on good taste and human logic. The even greater perplexing insult is made against either our religious sensibilities or human dignity, when a weapon is unveiled that pretty much would confuse the fuck even out of Steven Hawking. And Steven Hawking knows so very much more than everyone else. Even his brain would hurt at the existential / metaphysical implications of the Godkiller gun.
Huh? Wah? Can you wrap your feeble, pasty, monkey/human brain around the concept that Nicolas Cage’s character, named after the benighted writer of the epic poem Paradise Lost, apparently snuck into Satan’s office and stole his super wonderful gun which can, apparently, kill God Him/Her/Itself!
Chew on that for a few seconds. I’m not making this shit up. The Accountant (William Fichtner), after spending the flick following dutifully in Milton’s violent wake, leaving it decidedly more violent and corpse-filled, explains all this shit for our benefit before the super destructive climax. This is after he’s just taken out a whole phalanx of cops with a hydrogen filled truck, blowing up more property and people than what’s going on in Libya currently.
And looking the dapper gent the whole time. Christ, he’s awesome.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s dumb, but it’s winningly dumb. Sometimes, when deliberate trash, dumbness and sleaze in a film is planned from the outset, it’s just fucking terrible. But occasionally, like when Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made the two flicks that comprised Grindhouse, it works and works well. This flick looks more like a homage to homages of the seventies rather than a seventies flick itself, but it hardly matters. It has a 1970s aesthetics and car action (deliberately referencing Vanishing Point, the granddaddy of cool, pointless car flicks), 1980s level of gore and occult bullshit, and a 1990s-ish soundtrack updated with Autotune and the like.
And it has a sullen Nicolas Cage, pretty much playing The Crow, just without any of the goth bullshit, with more of a shitkicker rockerbilly aesthetic to it. And he has quite a modest wig in this one as well.
I had a ball, I really did. The 3D was terrible, utterly terrible, and the most obvious and meaningless use of the medium that you could possibly contemplate. About the only moment that looked remotely ‘good’ was the opening movie title projected out into the 3rd dimension looking genuinely like the grill of a car from hell. But the other crap, like Milton’s bullets or knives or ‘splosions ‘sploding outwards looked naff, utterly naff. Not that I cared. Watching Nicolas Cage drinking beer out of part of someone’s skull is probably one of the highpoints thus far cinematically of the year for me and my meagre money.
But the slow-motion gore, the ridiculous twisting and turning of theological mythology and the very presence of The Accountant (not something positive you can usually say about anything) raised this beyond any level it deserved to be.
Remember, no matter what the title says, by all means watch Drive Angry (if your standards are as permanently degraded as mine), but don’t drive angry. That's just dangerous. And selfish.
7 times Nicolas Cage has got nothing left to prove to anyone out of 10
“Satan is just the warden of a large prison, well-read man. And I happen to know that sacrificing children in His name pisses Him off to no end.” – who knew? – Drive Angry