Go ahead, make all the jokes you want about Nicolas Cage, but no one else would take on the lead role in a pulp extravaganza like Drive Angry. ‘But if there was no Drive Angry in the first place, we wouldn’t even need to worry about it,’ you say. True, but then we’d have been deprived of one of the better bad movies to screech down the blacktop in years.
We all know about Cage’s financial troubles, and, yes, most of his recent flicks have had a clear ‘I’m doing this for the paycheck’ feel, but not this one. Drive Angry is an over-the-top orgy of blood, skin, and muscle cars that plays like modern-day grindhouse feature, and Cage is dead-on as its lead, a soft-spoken, hell-bringin’ drifter named John Milton (all you English Lit majors may chuckle now).
The mayhem begins with Milton careening through the streets in his late 60s Buick Riviera, chasing a pick-up full of fellas who you know will be dead in a matter of moments. Sure enough, Milton catches up with them, asks where ‘the girl’ is, and dispatches two of the three of them in Tarantino-like fashion, with the added bonus of 3D. (Thankfully, Drive Angry was shot in 3D, not converted post-production.)
Milton is on the warpath, avenging his daughter’s death and trying to recover his baby granddaughter who’s set to be sacrificed at the next full moon by a satanic cult leader (Billy Burke, Bella’s dad from the Twilight saga). Along the way, Milton picks up Piper (Amber Heard), a hot waitress with a hot car, and the two of them head south looking for trouble.
On their path is The Accountant (William Fichtner), a mysterious man who can tell which way Milton went just by sniffing the air. He’s got super-human strength, a wry smile, and a nice suit, and he’ll quickly become your favorite character in the whole thing.
Director Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000) knows what he’s doing, and he does it well here. Taking full advantage of 3D (blood and bullets fly at you throughout), he puts together an addictive bit of eye candy that may well be remembered beyond opening weekend. The screenplay, which he co-wrote, is nothing to write home about (save for The Accountant’s moments), but it hits more than it misses, and, frankly, it’s not why you’re here seeing this anyway.
Cage has the most fun he’s had in years, and though his Oscar-winning days are seemingly long behind him, it doesn’t look like he cares too much about that. Maybe all along he was just looking for his niche.
Speaking of Oscar, it’s no mistake that Drive Angry arrives in theaters this weekend. It’s the ultimate anti-The King’s Speech and a welcome break for all those moviegoers who are sick of (or completely indifferent to) the attention those ‘high-brow’ movies are getting. There’s nothing remotely redeeming about Drive Angry, except for the fact that it’s a genuinely fun time of raucous, gratuitous sex, violence, and fast cars. At one point Milton proves the ultimate multi-tasker, as he bonks a bimbo, smokes a cigar, pulls on a bottle of whiskey, and blows away a dozen bad guys… all at the same time. Let’s see Colin Firth pull that off.