Saint Nic returns to Shitty Movie Sundays! It’s been just over a year since a film featuring Missile Test’s favorite actor graced these pages. Today’s film is Drive Angry, which is the only over-the-top Nic Cage film I can think of in which Nic Cage is not the most absurd thing on screen.
From way back in 2011, Drive Angry comes to us via director Patrick Lussier, from a screenplay by Lussier and Todd Farmer. At first glance, Drive Angry looks like it’s going to be a car flick. The trailer gives audiences the full muscle car treatment. A Buick Riviera, a Dodge Charger, a Chevy Chevelle, and more, including a female lead in Daisy Dukes. It’s a car flick, right? Nope. There are not nearly enough decent car chases for this to be a car flick. This is a revenge flick.
Cage plays John Milton, a very unhappy badass with a penchant for pointy boots and classic cars. He’s chasing down a cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke), who killed Milton’s daughter and kidnapped her newly-born baby. Some silly circumstances that have nothing to do with the plot land Milton a partner in Piper (Amber Heard), whose domestic strife ends up providing the movie with its most killer vehicle.
Meanwhile, Milton is being pursued by the mysterious Accountant (William Fichtner), who displays some interesting abilities early on. Clues in the first act point to there being a supernatural subplot to the movie, and there is! Milton has come back from the dead to get his revenge. It’s a complication that this film, in fact, does not need. There was already enough plot with Milton and Piper tracking a murderous cult throughout the American south. Supernatural shenanigans just don’t work as a peripheral element in this movie. But, that bit of screenwriting overenthusiasm on the part of Lussier and Farmer is not the source of this movie’s troubles.
Drive Angry is one of those movies that tries very hard to be flashy and cool. The opening scene bombards viewers with a CGI landscape, and that’s only the start. CGI is used for bullet time shots that were old by the time one watched The Matrix for the third time, gory splatter effects, explosions, car crashes, and a whole lot of shit flying towards the screen. For, alas, Drive Angry was shot in 3D — part of the third wave when Hollywood tried to make 3D a permanent part of the moviegoing experience, and failed. At least this movie was actually shot with 3D cameras, and not converted in post. But, the majority of the 3D effects are digital, which kind of makes using the 3D cameras pointless. Anyway…
The movie takes a predictable path to denouement, while subjecting viewers to much noise with little substance. The absolute peak of this film’s absurdities comes during a scene where Milton is engaged in a deadly gun battle, with people hurtling all over the screen, while he is having sex with a naked Charlotte Ross. It’s a scene that must be seen to be believed, yet it’s also repellant. There are more wild and crazy scenes in shitty films than I can name that are true jaw droppers — celebrations of excess. This scene is just stupid. A stupid scene for a stupid movie.
Everything in this movie is stupid, and not in the glorious fashion that Missile Test loves. Except for William Fichtner. He’s always been a reliable That Guy. There are many That Guys in this movie, in fact, in David Morse, Jack McGee, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Tom Atkins, but it is Fichtner who wins the That Guy prize for Drive Angry. And that’s impressive considering I believe the entire supernatural aspect could have been removed from the screenplay, which means cutting his character.
Drive Angry is a mean-spirited movie that has zero respect for an audience’s taste, intelligence, or attention span. It takes creativity and dashes it into the ground with cliché, a generic rock soundtrack, and CGI that is downright embarrassing for a movie that had a 50-million dollar budget.
Despite the presence of Nic Cage, Drive Angry is a tough watch, falling just into the lower half of the Index, displacing Return of the Living Dead Part II at #224.