- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Summit Entertainment
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ou never quite know what to expect from a Nicolas Cage film, because the actor is so unpredictable. But when you’re dealing with a movie called “Drive Angry,” there are really only two possibilities: either it will just plain suck, or it will relish in its awfulness to the point of being so bad it’s good. The film certainly had the potential to count itself among that special class of cinematic contradiction (especially with the 3D component), but despite aiming to become a campy cult classic, "Drive Angry" fails at every turn. If nothing else, it's a great lesson in how to make a really bad movie.
Cage stars as John Milton (no, not the “Paradise Lost” scribe, although that would have been cool), a vengeful father who breaks out of Hell in order to rescue his granddaughter from a satanic cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke). After murdering Milton’s daughter and kidnapping her child, King plans to sacrifice the baby during the next full moon in an attempt to bring about literal Hell on Earth. Though he’s no saint, Milton sees the baby as his last remaining connection to the living world, and convinces a feisty, small-town waitress (Amber Heard) to join him in getting her back. Satan has other plans, however, and has sent in his right-hand man (William Fichtner) to track Milton down and drag him back to Hell where he belongs.
There’s a certain air of cockiness to “Drive Angry” that would like you to believe the film is cooler than it really is – dropping F-bombs like some kind of grindhouse badge of honor – and it shows in the writing and the characters, who walk and talk with a swagger they haven’t earned. Billy Burke’s cult leader, in particular, fancies himself a badass even though he never once proves it throughout the course of the movie, while Cage’s Milton is a little too calm considering he just broke out of Hell. Director Patrick Lussier tries to make up for it with some ridiculously over-the-top set pieces, but the only one that really works is a sequence ripped straight from “Shoot ‘Em Up” where Cage takes on a bunch of goons while having sex with a woman. But while that film managed to strike the right balance between silly and serious, “Drive Angry” is just silly.
It’s also sorely lacking in cool car sequences for a movie that holds classic American muscle cars in such high regard, and though a big part of the film’s ad campaign has been centered around the fact that it was shot in 3D, you wouldn’t know the difference unless you were told beforehand. The 3D is almost non-existent except for a handful of gimmicky sequences, and even then it’s out of focus. William Fichtner is the sole bright spot as the comically deadpan demon sent to deal with Milton, but he goes missing for most of the second act, leaving Cage to fend for himself alongside the usually vacant Amber Heard. This is a movie that really could have benefited from one of his trademark wacky performances, but instead, he’s dreadfully subdued, making the events all the more dull as he spouts out line after line of bad dialogue. It was a disaster just waiting to happen, but the least Lussier could have done was make it an entertaining disaster.
Special Edition Blu-ray Review:
The Blu-ray release of “Drive Angry” is a bit of a mixed bag. Though the interactive “Access: Drive Angry” feature – which not only tracks the havoc that Milton wreaks throughout the film, but also includes cast and crew interviews and pop-up trivia – is pretty entertaining, the other extras are a complete waste of time. The included audio commentary by director/co-writer Patrick Lussier and co-writer Todd Farmer is ruined by the fact that Lussier has a bad case of laryngitis (seriously, they couldn’t reschedule?), while the included deleted scenes leave much to be desired. Not that we're surprised.