Should I Watch..? Drive Angry
What's the big deal?
Drive Angry is an action fantasy film released in 2011 and stars Nicolas Cage as a man who escapes from Hell in order to rescue his granddaughter from a Satanic cult leader. Directed by Canadian Patrick Lussier, the film was full shot in 3D and released in that format although the film grossed less than $30 million - making it a box office bomb. The film was criticised for being lurid, inane and ridiculous which was probably the reason the film became the lowest grossing 3D movie on wide release. It has since become part of a growing trend of Nicolas Cage's films that disappoint both critically and financially in recent years. The film also stars Amber Heard, William Fichtner and David Morse.
What's it about?
John Milton is a criminal who died and was dispatched to Hell some ten years earlier but who has now escaped, together with Satan's own personal weapon the Godkiller. Milton is on a mission to rescue his infant granddaughter from Satanic cult leader Jonah King who abducted the baby after murdering Milton's daughter and her husband. He plans to sacrifice the baby in a Satanic ritual in the belief that by doing so, he will unleash Hell on Earth. Milton plans to stop him any way he can.
Along the way, Milton meets waitress Piper who agrees to come along for the ride after discovering that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Together, they set off after King's convoy towards an abandoned prison in Louisiana where the ritual is due to take place. But Milton is pursued every step of the way by The Accountant, a mysterious and supernatural servant of Satan who intends to drag Milton back to Hell along with the Godkiller...
Patrick Lussier & Todd Farmer
Release Date (UK)
25th February, 2011
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Actor (Cage), Worst On-Screen Couple *
What's to like?
I admit that there is a certain audience for this type of grindhouse shlock so they will probably enjoy the lunacy that is Drive Angry. The film is a constant orgy of violence, gore, sex, swearing and big old car crashes and it revels in its own madness like a mental health patient sitting in the corner of their padded cell, oblivious to the world around them. In that respect, Cage is the perfect guy to lead such an insane film but he is actually stood up by Heard as the spunky heroine Piper, despite having to look like Megan Fox from the Transformers movies. Fichtner also has fun as the Accountant and provides the movie with what little humour is in there.
The action is certainly well staged, if a little generic, while the film tries hard to offer us something a little different with its fire-and-brimstone imagery. Yes, it looks very much like Cage's superhero outing Ghost Rider but you certainly can't accuse Drive Angry of being boring. Idiotic, definitely but not boring. Finally, I liked the vintage cars used in the film for no reason other than to look good. Call me shallow but I enjoy the sound of a rumbly V8 sparking into life and this film has plenty for petrol-heads like me to salivate over.
- Cage's character is called John Milton, a reference to the author who wrote the epic Paradise Lost. The book was about Satan's expulsion from Heaven and the creation of Hell.
- Todd Farmer, who co-wrote the screenplay, has a cameo as Piper's cheating boyfriend.
- Milton asks the Accountant if he is Anubis. Anubis was an Egyptian god with the head of a jackal who decided whose souls went to Heaven or Hell by weighing their heart on a scale.
What's not to like?
I realise that Drive Angry is not supposed to be anything other than mindless entertainment for the least demanding of cinema goers. But a bit of thought into it wouldn't have gone amiss - take Satan's Godkiller gun which is a cool-looking prop but why does it only have three bullets? What purpose does it serve and which gods exactly were on the Horned One's hit-list? Another mystery was David Morse's appearance as Milton's former friend Webster who felt criminally underused, given how good Morse can be. He certainly felt more believable than Cage who recites his lines as though reading cue-cards off screen. For all the film's dynamism, its lead actor is as wooden as a stake.
Don't think I'm going hard at Drive Angry because its a B-movie at heart. B-movies can still be fun without being woefully over-the-top or depressingly stupid. Robert Rodriguez has mastered this difficult balancing act with films like Desperado which has a lot more fun in a single scene than this film does in its entire running time. Even Rodriguez's grindhouse-homage Machete can still make you crack a smile. But this movie is too dark (meaning the 3D is wasted because you won't see much else) and too silly for its own good.
Should I watch it?
The only possible audience I can think of that would rate Drive Angry would be a room of drunk guys watching films on Halloween. That may be because that was the image in my mind watching it as I couldn't shake the feeling that the whole enterprise should have been shut down and glossed over. Cage's dodgy run continues - the man needs a hit like a Brooklyn junkie - and Heard's earnest performance is wasted here. It's a mildly interesting film but utterly desperate to entertain, a achievement that is simply beyond it.
Great For: potheads, Meatloaf fans, extremely forgiving action enthusiasts
Not So Great For: anyone with an IQ above 30, the partially sighted, Nicolas Cage fans
What else should I watch?
Cage's best films are definitely behind him, based on his recent output. For action fans, there is the equally cheesy Con Air or the tense prison shooter The Rock which pairs him up with Sean Connery to break into Alcatraz. And of course, the great John Woo used Cage to great effect with John Travolta for one of the best shooters of the 90's, Face/Off. But Cage can do more serious drama as well - he won an Academy Award for Leaving Las Vegas and broke hearts everywhere in the romantic drama City Of Angels.
Grindhouse films do seem to be making something of a comeback, thanks largely to Quentin Tarantino teaming up with our old friend Robert Rodriguez for Grindhouse - a double feature production involving Tarantino's Death Proof and Rodriguez's Planet Terror. Springing from the loins of this production came the aforementioned Machete whose third film is being worked on as I write. But others are having a go as well - Crank is an equally demented vehicle for Jason Statham to kick some serious ass as adrenaline-fuelled hitman Chev Chelios.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox