Movies that know exactly what they are and what their strengths are endear themselves to me, and the unashamedly raucous and silly Drive Angry (or Drive Angry 3D as it is officially titled) has a highly entertaining B movie heart wrapped in ‘A’ budget and 3D clothes. Reveling in its greasy ’70s occult and road movie exploitation roots, without slavishly recreating them in the manner of Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, Drive Angry is a wonderfully schlocky ride that never takes itself seriously.

Milton (Nicolas Cage) has escaped from hell to save his granddaughter from the clutches of a hillbilly satanic cult, led by the messianic Jonah King (Twilight‘s Billy Burke, coming on like the bastard love child of Billy Bob Thornton and Timothy Olyphant, if that makes any sense). Needing a lift to his destination, Milton hooks up with gorgeous coffee shop waitress Piper (Amber Heard), who conveniently both quits her job and is in possession of her boyfriend’s equally gorgeous ’69 Dodge Charger. The douchebag boyfriend quickly dispatched with, Piper and Milton set off to track the Satanists down, with Hell’s emissary The Accountant (William Fichtner) and various law enforcement types (Milton was a very bad man when he walked the earth, and it seems a lot of people haven’t forgotten) in hot pursuit.

Cage dutifully serves up his quarterly helping of Cage-ian pissed off middle aged guy, and while he doesn’t approach the perfection that he achieved in last year’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, his schtick is perfectly situated in this slice of B movie hokum. Amber Heard supplies the requisite eye candy, but thankfully she and Milton are just pals as Cage is a tad old at this point for her to be believably besotted with him (is Hollywood FINALLY lightening up on its unwavering dedication to perpetuating the aging leading man and a 25-30 years younger love interest rule?). Heard’s Piper is under-written, and she’s too physically slight to be entirely believable as a tough cookie, but no matter. Heard plays well off Cage’s Milton, functioning as a serviceable straight (wo)man riding shotgun through the mayhem (with nary a hair out of place or a make-up smear to be seen).

The film really belongs to co-stars William Fichtner and the array of beautiful muscle cars though. From Fichtner’s first appearance dressed in a pristine white shirt and sombre black suit and tie, he dominates every scene he’s in, dispensing deadpan bon mots and beat downs in equal measure.  The Accountant could easily be spun off into his own vehicle (a cable series perhaps), giving this very capable actor the sort of starring role he clearly deserves. It’s a great part and Fichtner relishes every minute of it, as we do watching him.

Drive Angry foregrounds 3D in a gimmicky and gleeful way that is reminiscent of its original flowering in the 1950s and brief resurgence in the 1980s. As a non-fan of 3D’s current proliferation in live action features, I went into the screening expecting to be annoyed by the use of the format but hoping that the film’s content would overcome my antipathy. The opening scenes quickly waylaid my 3Disgruntlement, announcing in a shower of blood ‘n’ bullets that the filmmakers were utilising the technology for laughs, not misguided notions of realism or an ‘enhanced’ story telling experience a la James Cameron. Thus, one happily delights in flaming bullets exiting gun barrels, beautiful American muscle cars roaring out of the screen, body parts flying about, and even a splintered baseball bat pinning a body to a wall. This is the only way that 3D is at all satisfying for me: highlighted in a way that is obvious and amusing, and used in an unpretentious, goofy genre film like this one, which delivers exactly what the label promises. Nic Cage drives. And he’s REALLY angry.


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Ian Gilchrist
I've worked in entertainment product development and sales & marketing in the U.S., UK and my native Canada for over 20 years, and have been a part of many changes during that time (I've overseen home entertainment releases on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray). I've also written and commentated about film and music for many outlets over the years. The first film I saw in the cinema was Mary Poppins, some time in the mid-60s: I was hooked. My love of the moving image remains as strong as ever.