Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drive Angry

A Panther Joe Payback
Drive Angry 3D (2011)
Director: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, Billy Burke, William Fichtner

"I'm going to kill you, then I'm going to defile your corpse..."

Wait, wait, a Nicolas Cage movie that Ben hasn't reviewed yet on this site? Shenanigans. It's well documented that Cage is easily Ben's favorite actor, and possibly desired mentor, so I have no idea how this is possible. Unless he's been writing on another site. Sorry...really, NJNM, didn't mean to bring it up. Ben would never cheat on you. Honest.

For the casual viewers who were slowly being turned off by the clumsy and expensive option of 3D in theaters, I'm here to tell you that you missed out on one of the most entertaining action films I've seen in years. Drive Angry presents itself merely as a revenge, car driven movie but slowly unfurls as a story that broaches other realms of your psyche, kicks you in the nuts, jerks your emotions around, and does this all with Nic Cage shooting, cursing, and fornicating his way to the bad guys.
We meet up with Milton (Cage), who is hell bent on finding the perpetrators responsible for killing his loved ones. During one of his stops through the countryside, he meets up with a starry-eyed waitress named Piper (Heard), who exchanges her Charger for his protective nature. Meanwhile, a mysterious man named The Accountant (Fichtner) is tracking Milton's every move and will stop at nothing in his bounty hunter role.

The men that Milton are trying to find are part of a Satanic cult, led by the visceral Jonah King (Burke). I can't begin to tell you how creepy this character was without spoiling too many of the goodies, but Burke's performance gave this film a legendary antagonist that had Milton's wishing to "drink beer from his skull."
Even though this is an action movie and you can probably guess how most of the story will wrap up with a combination of any of three or four resolutions, Drive Angry was more about the journey than the ending. Nic Cage delivers one his more powerful performances and allows us to reminisce about earlier films like The Rock and why we loved the guy in the first place. Even though the nature of his character stunted much of the emotional connection with others, Cage flawlessly transitioned from vigilante to caring father to honest friend to horny, warm blooded male and back again.

I could sit here and tell you how awesome and attractive and (probably smart) Amber Heard is, but the reality is that she was cast as the female lead meant to slow Milton down. However, after digesting this movie completely I can safely say that Heard's portrayal of the confused, flighty waitress Piper was one of her best efforts. In your action movie mindset, you inherently yearn for Piper and Milton to have more of an emotional connection, but it doesn't matter because Milton is on a war path anyway and we don't know enough about Piper to understand why she just goes with the flow and helps Milton whenever he needs it. Piper tells us about halfway through the movie that she more or less just wants to be part of something and no longer wants to sit around waiting on people--a keen adianoeta referring to her employ and stagnant life dominated by hackneyed choices and an abusive boyfriend.
I really wish you liked guys.
I initially found the mysterious character of The Accountant a little corny to begin with, but William Fichtner (who I remember vividly as the bi-curious Amway salesman in Go) really did him enough justice throughout the story to salvage him from being the weak link in this movie. There's also a mini subplot where The Accountant (below) and Milton discuss and use a gnarly, antiquated shotgun known simply as the "God-killer" that helps to expand the ridiculousness and 3D attributes of Drive Angry in one fell swoop.

From a design standpoint, this film looked gorgeous and I can only imagine it being an exhilarating ride in the theaters, third dimension or not. The bookend sequences reminded you of a dark graphic novelization while the bulk of the movie was painted with this matted exterior set against these muscle cars that exuded nothing but masculinity. The special effects for the guns, explosions, and gore were all exaggerated and pulled off in a charming way similar to the effect desired in other campy action films like Kill Bill Vol. 1 and From Dusk till Dawn.
Honestly, I can't find any serious hangups I had about this violent, unforgiving rollercoaster. Perhaps the only thing that was a little tired was Piper actually dropping a line about Milton "being honest just this one time...." At this point she had thrown her conventional life away, and in reality Milton had no reason to be completely honest with her about his past--after so many shotgun shells and misadventures with cultists it was all semantics anyway.

I cannot recommend Drive Angry enough, especially to those who have lost touch with the ways of the smarmy Nic Cage. 9/10 stars.

1 comment:

The Real Alan Trehern said...

Ah, most excellent. Definitely adding to the Trehern-a-queue!