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May 31, 2011

Drive Angry

Ahem. *cough* Errr....excuse me.  I was supposed to put the poster there, wasn't I? Well then....

Just a moment....

OK.  Let's begin.
(2011, Dir. by Patrick Lussier.)

Oh, Nicolas Cage. Please, for my sake, never get out of debt.

Yeah, I know that most of you mock The Cage. And he's done some things to earn it, sure. But I still admire the heck out of him. Most veteran actors who need to earn a paycheck start phoning in their performances by the time they take the lead in something like Drive Angry, but Cage - true to the form he's exhibited in everything from The Wicker Man to Adaptation - never cuts corners.  He's as intense as ever in each role, and here - playing a escapee of Hell who's allegorically named John Milton who is trying to save a baby from a cult leader (Twilight's Billy Burke, the film's biggest misstep in casting) with the help of a young hottie (Amber Heard, whose posterior stars above).  In the meantime, he has to avoid a mysterious man who calls himself The Accountant (played by William Fichtner) who seems to also come from hell.

With all apologies to Belinda Carlisle, what follows is Hell on Earth for our characters.  Said Hell primarily takes the form of car chases and gun battles, some even take place while a gruff Cage chomps cigars, has clothed sex with a waitress he previously showed no interest in, and talks like Nicolas Cage.  Lussier and writer Todd Farmer again take joy in mixing chaos and full frontal nudity - also having used the technique (can I call that a "technique"?) in their remake of My Bloody Valentine - turning Drive Angry into an over the top action/horror film very quickly.  I probably should be as annoyed by their antics as I am by Hatchet II's, but the difference is that I find this film ridiculously fun, not bland and lifeless.  

Speaking of Hatchet II, it's one of many films I've seen in the past few years that claims to be throwback to films gone by - but Drive Angry is one of the few films I've seen that actually feels like an honest-to-goodness drive-in feature of years gone by.  Sure, it's shinier than those films were and was filmed in the dreaded 3D (I only saw the 2D version, thanks to my Igor-eyes 3D and I aren't friends), but the car chases, gun fights and satanic imagery are right out of the '70s.  And it's freakin' refreshing to see a good old fashioned Satan Cult film once again.  It is a lost topic in the new Hollywood, but I still believe modern horror took its biggest nosedive when the spiritual was separated from the supernatural.

That said, Drive Angry is not a straight horror film by any means.  Though it does deal with Satanic cults and even takes us into a CGI hell (literally, not metaphorically like in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie), the film is primarily about cars going fast until they crash and flip, with guns going off at random times.  It sounds stupid - and it is stupid - but the film is so tongue in cheek as it speeds through its plot that I couldn't help smiling.  Fichtner's turn as the agent of Satan is especially indicative of this, as he plays the role with a sly grin that makes some of his off hand comments and antics completely memorable.  If nothing else in the film sticks with you, I doubt the scene in which Fichtner speeds toward a police blockade with "That's The Way (uh huh, uh huh) I Like It" playing will fade from your mind quickly.  It's over-the-top cheese at its finest.

So yeah, I kind of loved Drive Angry.  It's not entirely defensible, and it could almost fall into that guilty pleasure category - if I believed in that kind of thing.  Cage gets to do over the top things in fast cars, Heard looks as good as ever and packs a solid punch once again, and Lussier and Farmer keep it light and fun throughout.  It's not great cinema, but I couldn't stop myself from running it through the DVD player twice. I'm a sucker for a double dose of cheese.


JohnBem said...

This sounds like it might be just the thing. I'm gonna give it a try. I'm with you, there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure: we like what we like. And I like women in denim shorts and stories about satanic cults. And I like your thoughts about the supernatural and the spiritual. Thanks The Mike!

Monica said...

I’m with you; I liked it. It was definitely cheesy but in an endearing way. I ordered it as a Pay-Per-View and almost missed it when I got held up at the office. Thankfully I work for DISH so I took a break and used their TV Everywhere to watch the movie on my iPhone. It was just enough fantasy to break the melancholy and get me back up and running.