Published Feb 24, 2011"Loving your daughter doesn't explain shattering reality." That's Piper (Amber Heard), mid-film, trying to process just how the fuck any of this story makes sense. It doesn't and the filmmakers barely try to disguise it. Yet Drive Angry is a hell of a fun ride. After some minor exposition on Cain escaping from hell, a voiceover proclaims, "Badass motherfuckers are never fast enough," and a car speeds out along a highway in hell. This hell is painted as a fiery red industrial prison, the crumbling buildings jabbing into the foreground, reaching off into the distance through the use of in-your-face 3D. Director Patrick Lussier was responsible for My Bloody Valentine 3D, so he's versed in the less subtle uses of the technology.
Immediately putting those skills to use, the first bloody exchange between Milton (Nicolas Cage) – the half-baked reference to Paradise Lost will be lost on nobody – and a pack of trailer park cultists sends a shotgun-severed hand flying into the camera. Decapitation via bullet is among Milton's favoured methods of dispatching the Satanists who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. Under the command of not so charming leader Jonah King (a wooden, bland Billy Burke, of Twilight fame), the cultists plan to sacrifice Milton's granddaughter in order to open the gates of hell. Milton hooks up with a young waitress, for her spitfire personality as much as her ride, and takes to the road to stop the sacrifice before the full moon.
Where Drive Angry rises above its shlocky B-movie trappings is the introduction of the Accountant, an agent of Satan sent to balance the books. William Fichtner (Go, The Dark Knight) positively owns the screen, looking dapper in a crisp suit, inflicting casual acts of violence upon the unhelpful and speaking with a whimsical literalism befitting of a Joss Whedon creation. He's so good though, eliciting intentional laughter with even the simple cocking of his head, that it brings glaring attention to just how lacklustre Cage's performance is.
There's so much scenery to chew in a picture as ridiculous as this that it's a shame Cage wasn't hungry. The same can't be said for Amber Heard; she more than holds her own, crackling with pizzazz, fearlessly taking on guys twice her size with no advantage beyond the power of her determination. The 3D gags fall by the wayside around mid-film, making a revival for the climax, but never reaching the giddy limb flinging heights of the first act.
Drive Angry is best when not taking itself seriously, but it's still hilarious when it tries to, just don't get caught up with several remarkably stupid contradictions in the plot or how Cage barely looks present even when fucking a waitress during a gunfight. Instead, try to enjoy how Cage barely looks present even while fucking a waitress during a gunfight. Had Lussier pulled out all the stops, cleaned up the lazy dialogue and story points, and given Fichtner's Accountant more screen time, Drive Angry could have been a modern grindhouse gem. (Maple)