Saturday, 5 July 2014

Drive Angry (2011)

Beginning with Nicolas Cage literally driving out of hell, Drive Angry is not a film that you will ever find described by the word "subtle". In fact, it's perhaps best summed up by the scene in which Cage shoots a lot of bad guys while swigging on a bottle of bourbon and having sex with a naked blonde. It's a scene that should be laughably bad, yet it plays out as a sequence that's hugely entertaining. It's still laughable, but in a good way.

What's the plot anyway? Cage plays a man named Milton, a runaway from hell who is being followed by The Accountant (William Fichtner). Milton is determined to stop a baby being sacrificed by Jonah King (Billy Burke), a cult leader who wants to make hell on earth. And on his quest to stop Jonah he ends up gaining a companion in the shapely . . . . . . . . shape of Amber Heard (playing a character named Piper). David Morse appears for a few minutes, Tom Atkins also gets to make an appearance, and Christa Campbell makes quite an impression with her limited screentime, but everyone takes a back seat to the feeling of excess, the CGI effects bandied around to enhance the 3D experience, and Cage going for yet another whacky turn.

I have to take a moment here to mention the one thing that bugs me most about Drive Angry. It's a little thing, yet it sits in my mind and flashes like a big, neon sign. The character played by Amber Heard is, as is made clear quite early on, someone who is both tough and has a strong urge to always do right by people. Her actions, words and general attitude show this. So the fact that the film-makers choose to show her holding a cigarette for one scene, about an hour or so into the movie, just doesn't make any sense. It's as if they thought she'd definitely smoke to make her more obviously tough, and then that decision was reversed at the last moment. Keep your eyes peeled. She holds a cigarette. When next shown, she's still holding it. And then she throws it to the ground, at no point actually smoking the damn thing.

Anyway, ranting aside, the rest of the movie does exactly what it should do. It entertains without ever getting close to any sign of intelligence. The performances from most of the main players are deliriously over the top. Cage is, of course, no stranger to this type of thing, Fichtner has a number of scene-stealing moments, and Burke simply tries to match them (although he can't). Heard is a good addition, mainly because I think she's always a good addition, Atkins is The Atkins, and Morse reminds viewers that not everyone in such a raucous movie has to turn everything up to 11.

Patrick Lussier is the director of this madness, and he also co-wrote the script with Todd Farmer (who gave himself a couple of great moments onscreen, too). I guess the script went something like this: Nic Cage drives, oooohhh Amber Heard, Fichtner is cool, Nic Cage drives some more . . . . . . or sits beside Amber Heard in a car, guns, guns, guns, boobies, boobies and guns and blood and booze, Cage drives again (note to self - he HAS to drive angry, otherwise the title makes us look stupid), Fichtner is cool again, ATKINS, more driving in the angriest way possible, etc. etc.

It's easy to mock this because it's not a good film. Yet, it's pretty great in the way it so unashamedly lays all of its cards on the table from the very beginning and then delivers one ridiculous set-piece after another en route to the grand finale. There are even some RAWK songs on the soundtrack that sound like parodies, somehow just adding to the appeal of the whole thing.

If Trey Parker and Matt Stone ever made an action movie (a non-puppet action movie) then I'd imagine that the end result would be Drive Angry. As difficult as it may be to believe, I mean that as a compliment.


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