Eye For Film >> Movies >> Drive Angry (2011) Film Review
Reviewed by: David Graham
Patrick Lussier continues to indulge his grindhouse obsession with a Nicolas Cage vehicle (no pun intended) that offers the sort of greased-up, gory goods that Tarantino tragically failed to deliver with Death Proof. Fans of the director's earlier My Bloody Valentine remake will feel right at home here, with a similar mix of mostly inoffensive splatter, gleefully gratuitous nudity and the sort of old-school eye-popping 3D of which William Castle would surely be proud. James Cameron can bang on about his depth of perspective til the cows come home, but sat in the middle of an audience hitting the roof with every severed body part flying into their faces, you'd be churlish to deny the childish thrill that 3D can still provide when it goes back to basics.
John Milton is a vengeful wraith broken out of hell on four wheels to save the last member of his bloodline from being sacrificed to a devil-worshipping cult. As pitches for trashy movies go, you have to admire Lussier's genre-mashing balls, blending admirably CGI-free demolition derby destruction with occult intrigue and spirited supernatural nonsense. Throw in Amber Heard as a sassy Southern belle who catches Cage's eye with her hot rod (rather than her own bodywork), and William Fichtner as a demonic 'accountant' hellbent on dragging Milton back down to the pit, and you have a heady stew of deep-fried silliness.
Everyone plays their parts with unbridled relish, Fichtner effortlessly slithering around the screen, a welcome foil to the more stereotypical villainy Billy Burke is reduced to as the evil cult leader, almost an afterthought amongst all the other madness. Amber Heard makes a strong impression again, adding to her resume of full-blooded performances in undeserving films, following the likes of John Carpenter's The Ward and The Informers. Her character here is predictably ballsy, but she attacks her part with such gusto that she carries the film through some questionable moments, such as when she slays some innocent cops and is later called on to deliver some unnecessary emotion.
Cage isn't quite as delightfully demented as he was in recent comeback Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, but his performance is a darn sight more enjoyable than his smug mugging in the risible Season Of The Witch. He wisely plays his avenging angel cool, with some deliciously deadpan dialogue that doesn't need any more seasoning. There are also a couple of expanded cameos, one from an Eighties horror fave and another from a more recent and well-respected actor, which manage to respectively infuse some added cool and pathos into proceedings.
The film gleefully rips off everything from genre classics like The Terminator to recent upstarts such as Shoot 'Em Up, but manages to do it with a tongue so firmly in cheek that you should be too busy grinning to care. While some took exception to the similarly OTT Machete muddling its tone with political posturing, there are no such quibbles here. Although Lussier avoids Rodriguez's trendy throwback fetishising, this means he also avoids any possible accusations of his film being anachronistic. His slick and defiantly modern style suits the frenzied material, and he even manages to stage some impressive and imaginative shots which put the 3D effects to fresh use (note his use of glass and reflections, and the adoption of a VHS visual style to represent Milton's visions). Although Drive Angry is a veritable pastiche - fans of cult Sixties devil-worshippers-in-pursuit thriller Race With The Devil will be particularly pleased - it also has its own original flourishes with its gradually developed mythos and air of anything-goes anarchy.
The plot gets bogged down in the Satanic mob business around about the midway mark, but up until then and thereafter the film is hell for leather fun. This must primarily be attributed to Lussier's sure-footed handling as a hands-on filmmaker, responsible for writing, editing and directing this and most of his work (which has been getting better with each offering over the last couple of years - who knows what he'll do with his upcoming Halloween sequel and Hellraiser reboot).
His understanding of both comedy and spectacle, coupled with his visual flair and ear for a well-placed but not over-played tune mark him out as someone who understands his audience and is devoted to giving them what they want. While some will balk at the undeniable cheese on display, which even teeters into ill-advised sentiment at points, everyone else should just buckle up and enjoy the ride: this is a worthy successor to the likes of Piranha 3D in terms of pure unadulterated but guilty pleasure.Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2011