Cinema Knife Fight: DRIVE ANGRY 3D
By L.L. Soares (and Michael Arruda)
(The scene: A long stretch of highway. LL SOARES is driving a Dodge Charger as fast as it can go, miles of desert on either side of him. Motorhead’s song “Ace of Spades” plays loud over the car stereo)
LS (shouting): Oh there you are. I’m here driving solo, reviewing the new movie DRIVE ANGRY that just came out in theaters. My sidekick is bowing out on this one…
(The music stops and MICHAEL ARRUDA’s voice comes on the radio)
MA: Hello? You there?
LS: Hey! I was enjoying that song!
MA: Yeah, well, I just want to set the record straight. I didn’t bow out on this one on purpose. I’m stuck at my house buried under several feet of snow; snow, it seems, that has been falling since January! I mean, the snow banks around here have gotten so big they’re going to start lending money.
LS (turns off radio): Like anybody cares. I was enjoying that song. Hopefully, he’s gone now. (Turns on radio. “Ace of Spades” is playing again.) That’s more like it. So, where was I? Yeah, DRIVE ANGRY.
(MA’s voice returns on the radio.)
MA: What do you mean? Nobody cares? I have readers who would care if I’m stuck in the snow someplace.
(Flash to a little old lady seated in front of a computer, tapping impatiently at the screen rather than the keyboard.)
LITTLE OLD LADY: Where’s that Michael Arruda? I haven’t seen his reviews in a while. He writes such sweet things about these movies.
(Scene returns to LS driving in car.)
LS: Hey, how did you know what I said if I shut the radio off first?
MA: Actually, you dissed me as you were turning the radio off.
LS (grimaces at camera): Yeah, I’ll buy that. Sure.
MA: So what did you think of DRIVE ANGRY?
LS: Actually, the full title is DRIVE ANGRY 3D, I guess. Although I’m sure some theaters somewhere were showing it in 2D.
DRIVE ANGRY gives us Nicolas Cage as John Milton (get it?)—.
MA: —That would be a reference to that classic of literature, PARADISE LOST by John Milton.
LS: Thank you, Professor. But this John Milton is a long-haired, intense guy who just escaped from hell in a souped-up car.
Turns out Hell is just a giant prison, and he’s a breakout artist. The reason he’s come back is to save his baby granddaughter, who has been abducted by Satanists. The baby’s mother – John’s daughter – was part of a cult, but got second thoughts, so the leader, the charismatic Jonah King (Billy Burke), killed her and took her baby, and is planning to use the infant to make a blood sacrifice to Satan. The plan being to open a portal and bring Hell to earth.
Meanwhile, a demonic lawman, called only The Accountant (William Fichtner) is hot on Milton’s trail, intent to bringing him back to the land of fire and brimstone. (Most people probably know Fichtner as the crooked federal agent from the TV series PRISON BREAK.)
Along the way, Milton picks up feisty blonde firecracker Piper (Amber Heard), at first for her car, and then later the two bond and she agrees to help him get his granddaughter back.
So Jonah King and his men are out to kill Milton. So is The Accountant. And Milton is intent on avoiding The Accountant and killing King and his minions, and saving the baby. Got it so far?
(We go back to the LITTLE OLD LADY, who is now getting into a souped-up 1957 Chevy and is gunning the engine)
LITTLE OLD LADY: I’ll teach them to give me a Cinema Knife Fight review without sweet little Michael Arruda! GOSH DARN IT!
(She peels out in a screech of tires)
(Back to LS)
LS: This movie creates its mood right from the get go, letting us know this is going to be an all-out, over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall, live-action loony tune from the very first scene. Nick Cage does his usual hammy overacting (he gives an enjoyable performance here, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe this guy once won an Oscar) as Milton, and Fichtner is damn near perfect as the demonic Accountant (who looks exactly like the FBI man he keeps telling everyone he is – his suit doesn’t get rumpled even once). Hell, the acting is good all around here, including Burke (the dad from the TWILIGHT movies – I knew he looked familiar) as the very charismatic Jonah King (you can believe this guy leads a cult) and the hot, tough, and fun-to-watch Heard as Piper. Other good supporting players include David Morse as Milton’s long-time friend, Webster, and Tom Atkins as the chief of police trying to chase everyone else down.
From the trailers, I thought this was just going to be a straight story of a normal guy chasing down the cultists who stole his daughter (is Nick Cage really old enough to play grandfathers now? I guess he is). I didn’t find out about the supernatural elements until a few days before the movie opened, and I didn’t know what to expect from that. All this talk of Hell and demons and vengeance smacks a lot of a previous Cage outing, GHOST RIDER (2007), which was flawed at best. But for some reason, it all works better here. John Milton is a man on a mission and Cage gives us enough intensity and his just plain patented goofiness throughout to keep the fans wanting more.
(Cherry red ’57 Chevy roars up behind him and drives up beside him)
LITTLE OLD LADY: Where is Michael Arruda this week, you mean man!
LS: Huh? What are you talking about? I’m trying to do a movie review here, lady.
LITTLE OLD LADY: Damn, smartass kids!
(She pulls out a shotgun and aims it at LS)
LITTLE OLD LADY: I represent “Old Timers For Arruda” and we are not going to tolerate reviews that leave him out.
LS: Lady, he’s stuck in the snow. It’s not my fault.
LITTLE OLD LADY: Not good enough, sonny!
(Before she can shoot, LS rams her car with his, and she goes over the railing, spinning down the hills, bursting into a giant ball of flame)
LS: So long, sucker! (cackles in glee)
Where was I?
MA (voice on the radio): You were wrapping up your review, I think. I have to admit, I’m sad you killed that old lady. She sounded very smart.
LS: Yeah, it is kind of sad to think I might have killed off your only fan.
MA: Get to the review!
LS: The dialogue gets a little absurd at times, but the silliest lines are the ones coming out of Cage’s mouth, and he says them as if they were diamonds. No one makes bad dialogue sound good and funny like Nicolas Cage.
For the most part, the script is pretty good, the acting top-notch, and the direction by Patrick Lussier – whose remake of MY BLOODY VALENTINE (also in 3D) in 2009 was one of the better horror flicks since the new 3D renaissance – keeps things moving at a nice speed throughout. Sure, there are plenty of goofy aspects to the proceedings, but they’re all part of the ride—speaking of which, there are also some very cool cars in this flick, too.
Is the 3D worth it? Well, there are stretches where you kind of don’t notice (as is the case with a lot of 3D movies), and then, suddenly, a bullet will come your way, or part of someone’s skull will hurtle towards you. This movie earns its R rating with plenty of blood and dismemberment, as well plenty of nude girls, so what’s not to love? That said, I’m still not a big fan of the whole 3D thing, and didn’t think it added that much to the movie. I still think the entire 3D craze is a sham created to raise ticket prices and sell new televisions. But when a movie is an entertaining as this one – and most 3D movies aren’t – I’m willing to let it slide. But I bet it would have been just as fun in regular 2D.
MA: I’m with you on this point. The majority of the new 3D movies haven’t been worth the extra ticket prices.
LS: So is this movie worth seeing? Hell yeah. After the showing I went to, there were surveys so I filled one out. One question asked “Why did you want to see this movie?” and I checked off “Nicolas Cage” with a giant X next to his name, and smaller x’s for William Fichtner and the fact that it was “Directed by the guy who made MY BLOODY VALENTINE.”
DRIVE ANGRY is a hoot and a holler and a drag race out of hell and back. I give it three and a half knives.
MA: Sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m sorry I missed it.
(LITTLE OLD LADY’s voice come on the radio)
LITTLE OLD LADY: You better be part of the next review, Michael! I am boiling mad!
(LS turns off the radio. The vast desert on either side of him turns into walls of flame as he takes a right turn into Hell)
LS: Well, I’m home. So long folks! See you next time.
© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares (with some input from Michael Arruda)
LL SOARES gives DRIVE ANGRY 3D – three and a half knives
Meanwhile, MICHAEL ARRUDA is stuck in the snow