Written by: Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, and William Fichtner
Reviewed by: Brett G.
ďFuckiní devil worshippers freak me the fuck out. Messiní around with powers they shouldnít be. Turns my shit white.Ē
In addition creating some colorful (or not so colorful) bowel movements, it would seem that devil worshippers are also able to conjure up a fun time at the movies. That is, as long as theyíre under the watchful eye of Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, the two guys who brought us some heart-stopping slasher mayhem with My Bloody Valentine 3D two years ago. The demented duo is back, and this time theyíre raising a little hell with the grindhouse-inspired Drive Angry, a road movie/shoot-em-up that aims for the cheapest thrills this side of the drive-in. And, in true drive-in fashion, it's not merely content to hit this mark; indeed, it desires to completely blow it away in a hail of gunfire.
John Milton (no, not the blind author of Paradise Lost, though thatíd certainly make for some interesting gunplay) is tracking a Satanic cult across the country because theyíve taken his newborn granddaughter, and they intend to sacrifice her to usher in the apocalypse. Along the way, Milton meets up with a badass waitress (Amber Heard) who happens to also have an even more badass ride. Together, the unlikely duo pursue the cult while also dodging local authorities and a mysterious man known only as ďThe AccountantĒ (Fichtner).
Despite the ornery sounding title, Drive Angry is far from cantankerous; instead, itís a silly, over-the-top movie that announces its drive-in ambitions early and often, and it rarely lets its foot off the pedal. Our protagonist is literally introduced as a ďbadass motherfucker,Ē and he proceeds to do what badass motherfuckers do in movies like these: pump bullets into bad guys and thrust his manhood into gorgeous women (with both happening at the same time at one point). In between all the shooting (of bullets and loads) are some cool car chases with spectacular stunts and effects work that satisfy action junkies. Though these sequences donít quite get as inventive as some of the more outrageous scenes in something like Machete, theyíre effective all the same, as bullets, debris, and body parts fly everywhere.
All signs point to ďbig dumb action movie,Ē which is mostly right; however, I hesitate to call it dumb, as itís obviously self-aware and knows what it is, and goes to great lengths to embrace it. Plus, the film is genuinely funny--though there are some clunkers here and there, the dialogue is often sharp and witty. Thereís requisite action movie one-liners, but thereís also some clever banter between characters that make this one just as funny as it is insane. And it is quite demented; though itís an action movie at heart, thereís a mean streak--various murders, impalements, and, yes, demonic rituals await. We even get a glimpse of hell, which also seems to be suffering from urban decay these days.
Lussier and Farmerís greatest asset is their ability to put together a fun cast. Itíd be easy to say the most horrific thing about Drive Angry is Nic Cage acting right up in your face, but thatís not quite the case. The recently much-maligned leading man is subdued and plays the part of the weary traveler well here. The standout of the bunch is Fichtner as the mysterious antagonist; heís suave, charismatic, and reserved, with some killer line deliveries that highlight his characterís morbid sense of black humor. Having mostly been used in supporting roles throughout his career, I was happy to see someone give him a shot at a role like this; his character is so interesting that Iíd watch a spin-off devoted to him. And if you think Amber Heard canít hang with the boys, think again--sheís sassy and feisty enough to slide right into that passenger seat. Other familiar faces punctuate the cast--Billy Burke is the slimy, evangelical cult leader, David Morse shows up as an old ally of Miltonís, and Tom Atkins even drops in (as a cop, of course).
For all the gun and car porn strewn throughout the film, these characters to manage to make an impression and youíre left strangely invested in most of them by the end. Thatís a credit to Lussier to find the heart at the middle of all the madness, though he handles the madness just as well. Though the subject matter is essentially low-budget fare (and it indeed began with such intentions), the production is anything but that, with lavish effects work and a professional polish that makes for a well-directed experience, with some tightly constructed and suspenseful action sequences that also feature some dynamic camera work. Itís practically the same approach Tarantino and Rodriguez took with Grindhouse in that Lussier and crew are trying to both embrace low budget exploitation while also attempting to make the best exploitation movie they possibly can.
Donít call it classy though because itís certainly anything but that. Letís just say that the grindhouse is thoroughly embraced between the ridiculous action sequences, splattery gore, and all the sex. If a Grindhouse sequel had ever been made, Drive Angry could have parked itself in a spot on the twin bill; it feels a bit long and stalls a bit at the beginning of the third act, but itís mostly one hell of a good time. Itís made all the better when seen in its native 3D format, where youíll have all the chaos hurled at you; yes, itís kind of gimmicky, but itís all part of the fun of blowing away that fourth wall and reminding the audience why they should see movies like this in the first place: because itís fun to see people shoot, fuck, and run--and maybe not always in that order. Drive swiftly to your local theater, and when this one speeds onto store shelves, Buy it!
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