If you opened up the New York Times on Friday (or clicked through it online), you might have noticed that there was no review for ‘Drive Angry’, the new Nicolas Cage 3D spectacular about a man who drives out of hell in his favorite charger, with revenge burning in his heart like diesel fuel. That’s because the press screening for the movie (for the East Coast – there was a screening out West in conjunction with the junket) was Friday morning at 11 AM. This is the clearest indicator that the American distributor, Summit, was embarrassed silly by the movie. But they shouldn’t have been. ‘Drive Angry’ is actually the most fun 3D exploitation film this side of my beloved ‘Piranha 3D‘.
I saw the movie on Friday night, at 10:00 (the “exploitation hour” if your local bijou doesn’t do midnight shows). If I hadn’t brought along two chums, there would be a grand total of 5 people in the 300+ seat theater. “This is going to be bad,” I thought.
Guess what? It wasn’t! It was a blast, in fact.
‘Drive Angry’ has a simple revenge plot embellished by supernatural nonsense and cutting-edge special effects. Cage plays John Milton. (Get it? Can I get a what-what from the literary studies majors in the house?). He’s a man who busts out of hell in order to save his granddaughter from the clutches of a foul Satanic preacher (Billy Burke) with a weakness for velour. Pursuing Cage is The Accountant (William Fichtner), a lugubrious agent of Satan who not only wants to re-incarcerate an escaped soul, but also bring back The God-Killer, a mystical weapon that Cage has somehow made off with. (Plot specifics that would shed light on anything are pretty much nonexistent.) Cage also hooks up with a kick-ass white trash babe (Amber Heard), who enjoys both punching stuff and wearing incredibly skimpy Daisy Duke-style jean shorts.
That’s about all you need to know about the plot. For some reason, everyone is obsessed with rip-roaring old muscle cars. So there are a lot of car chases and engines revving, to go along with all the bone and blood and brain matter that’s splashed across the screen, gloriously, in three dimensions.
The film was directed by Patrick Lussier, who also helmed the sturdy 3D remake of ‘My Bloody Valentine‘. This makes him the first post-millennial 3D exploitation auteur… or something. He knows exactly what to shove in your face and for how long, and his shot compositions maximize the three-dimensional impact. Tonally, the movie knows what it is and what it should be, with its tongue firmly implanted in cheek. Fichtner in particular brings a kind of gleeful menace to his performance as a hellish bounty hunter. It’s not going to change your worldview, but if you’ve ever wanted to see Nicolas Cage engage in a shootout while having sex with a truck-stop floozy, well, this is the movie for you.
It’s incredibly dumb and incredibly fun. This is easily the best time I’ve had at the movies in a while. Who needs reviews when you can just have this much bad-taste, good-time fun?