Sunday, August 21, 2011

All Hell Breaks Loose

Well, you certainly can’t accuse DRIVE ANGRY of playing it safe.

It’s a real mess, but kind of a gutsy one that isn’t afraid to not only be batshit ridiculous, but also wear its absurdities on its sleeve. Director Patrick Lussier and his co-writer Todd Farmer, who previously collaborated on the entertaining MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake, drench the screen with a palette of blood, naked women, car chases, tough talk, ripe performances, and supernatural mumbo-jumbo that’s difficult to resist. Wandering around amid the thriller’s excesses is a wryly undercooked bit by the always excellent William Fichtner (PRISON BREAK) that seems to know even more than its director does how silly it all is.

Nicolas Cage, who abandoned all pretense of being a good, not to mention serious, actor a long time ago, is in top paycheck mode as Milton, a somewhat greasy guy whose determination to rescue his granddaughter from Satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) has him mowing down half the hoods in the South. Along for the ride, after Milton rescues her from her dimwit two-timing fiancé (played by Farmer, who more or less reprises his VALENTINE role), is trash-mouthed waitress Piper (Amber Heard, coming to network TV this fall in THE PLAYBOY CLUB), who comes along to both give the predominantly male audience something nice to look at and ask Milton the appropriate questions about his backstory.

Surprisingly, Lussier and Farmer save Milton’s crazy personal history for the end, though blunt hints are laid down by the presence of the Accountant (Fichtner), a bounty hunter or agent of some sort with amazing recuperative powers and a determination to capture Milton that rivals his target’s own.

Too much of a mess is rarely a good thing, and what holds DRIVE ANGRY back from being more than a silly romp is Lussier’s unsteady direction. He rarely appears in control of his own movie, though he deserves some consideration for holding down Cage, who treats his role like a professional and resists any urge to show the camera how dumb it is.

However, DRIVE ANGRY is better than most contemporary action movies, and its cheeky sense of humor and raucous style make it perfect drive-in fare. It was a box-office flop in February, a testament to audiences' fatigue with trashy Nicolas Cage movies and perhaps Summit Entertainment's lazy marketing strategy, which disguised the film's horror elements.

It’s nice to see David Morse (TREME) pop up in the third act with a typically gentle performance that helps bring Cage down to Earth. It’s also nice to see more of Charlotte Ross (NYPD BLUE) than I’ve ever seen before.

1 comment:

Bill Crider said...

Saw this in the theater in 3-D and got a huge kick out of it. It was like a '70s exploitation movie brought slightly up to date. Obviously set up for a sequel, too, but I suppose it would be too much to hope for one.