Finally, a glimmer of hope amidst the detritus of dumping ground movies. The trailer for Drive Angry 3D beckoned me to the theater like a siren song . . . of course, a siren’s song typically leads you to your doom, but no matter . . . anything to escape the dumping ground doldrums.
Between the rest of crappy movies being released and catching up on all the prestige pictures I missed last year, I needed a break, some pure entertainment in the form of glorious B-movie escapism. Fast cars, scantily clad women, explosions, shoot-outs, Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, fire and brimstone . . . sounds like a hearty dose of junkfood cinema to me.
Nicolas Cage plays Milton, an out-and-out bad-ass who escapes from Hell to avenge his daughter’s death and rescue his baby granddaughter from a Satanic cult. Billy Burke (The Twilight Saga) plays cult leader Jonah King, who is dead-set on creating a new world order of hell on earth. And of course, like most Satanic rituals involving invoking Armageddon, a sacrifice is required, thus the kidnapped baby.
Along the way, Milton makes nice with Piper (Amber Heard), a rambunctious firecracker–fierce and foul-mouthed–looking to start a new life. The two become fast friends. Unfortunately for Piper, when your new BFF is an undead escapee from Hell with a mind for vengeance and a cult of fanatics trying to kill him, life ain’t exactly a barrel of laughs. To make matters worse, Satan sends Death AKA “the Accountant” (William Fichtner) to bring Milton back to Hell.
Basically, Drive Angry 3D is Race with the Devil, only reversed and on steroids. Instead of a Satanic cult chasing after the motor-home-driving protagonists for witnessing a human sacrifice, it’s the protagonists chasing after the motor-home-driving cult in order to prevent them from making a human sacrifice. And there are a lot more shoot-outs and explosions.
For such an over-the-top movie, Cage delivers a remarkably stoic performance. Which makes sense, in death there’s probably little point for pretense. Milton comes off as cool and aloof, with a steely reserve. There are moments when he appears to deviate from his task. His roll in the hay with a vociferous cocktail waitress seems to serve little purpose, beyond some gratuitous nudity, until it turns out to be part of his plan to lure his enemy to him and get some information . . . after a mid-coitus shoot-out of course.
Meanwhile, Heard is the loose-cannon. Loud, brash, bold, Piper is less a character and more a caricature, which isn’t a bad thing here. The fiery vixen is a boisterous contribution, who helps quicken the pace of a film that is–at times–noticeably stilted.
There are some awkward moments, particularly with William Fichtner. Though I am a fan of Fichtner (Go, Black Hawk Down, Heat), the Accountant is just an odd character, which I attribute to the writing and not Fichtner’s performance. There are a lot of strange goings-on in general with Drive Angry 3D, most of which I attribute to writer/director/editor Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D, Dracula 2000). His writing and directing aren’t quite on par with his editing. He can cut together visuals very nicely, but as far as a cohesive story or character development, he leaves something to be desired.
Still, Lussier’s got some style. Yes, sometimes the mood strikes when I find that I crave style over substance. And Drive Angry 3D fits that bill. So, while there are a few bumps in the road–awkward moments, superfluous attempts at subplot, stilted dialogue, and some egregious leaps in logic–that keep Drive Angry 3D from being a smooth ride, if you crank your suspension of disbelief up to eleven (maybe even twelve), you’re in for a good time. I know it’s not saying much, considering what has come out so far, but it’s the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year. Let me put it another way. It’s a guilty pleasure, that I’ll definitely watch again, unlike Ghost Rider, which you’d have to pay me to even use as a coaster.