What would you say if I told you that two years after MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D showed us all how awesome 3D could be, and that horror remakes could be great, the same writer and director came out with another 3D movie?
What would you say if I told you that this follow-up from the writer and director starred Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, and William Fichtner?
What would you say if I told you that the plot of the movie involved Nicolas Cage breaking out of Hell to save his granddaughter from being used as a human sacrifice by a Satanic cult?
Is that a movie you think you would want to see?
Well you damn well didn’t bother to when it came out in 2011, and it breaks my heart. DRIVE ANGRY is written by Todd Farmer and directed by Patrick Lussier, and let me tell you, it deserves more love than it gets. The movie is a high octane, non-stop road trip of nitrous-infused insanity. This is the kind of movie that should be playing at midnight showings across the country in dirty old theaters filled with loud audiences that cheer with each vicious and gory kill. Fans should be at conventions looking for replicas of the God Killer gun to hang up on their wall. Instead this masterclass in “fuck yeah” has slipped through the cracks of the movie loving world.
For whatever reason, when DRIVE ANGRY came out, critics and audiences seemed to miss the fun of it. Some critics took the movie seriously while others, like Elizabeth Weitzman, saw that the film was a loving homage to the grindhouse films of a time long gone, just with a bigger budget. Is DRIVE ANGRY perfect? No. It isn’t close to perfect. It also isn’t trying to be. This is a movie that is all about fast action and furious fun and while the cast plays it straight, there’s no question that the movie is meant to laughed with.
Speaking of the cast, I honestly don’t know who steals the show more, Cage or Fichtner. Cage is more like Cameron Poe, his character from the endlessly entertaining CON AIR than his more wacky H. I. McDunnough from RAISING ARIZONA. By that I mean that Cage isn’t going over the top, choosing to play things, for the most part, as a chill as hell certified badass. After all, he did just steal the Devil’s gun and car before breaking out of Hell. If that isn’t badass, I’m not sure what would be.
Fichtner, on the other hand, gets to play things up a bit. Still, he doesn’t go all Al Pacino yelling all the time, but you can tell the guy is loving every second and every line of dialog he gets to say. Take a look at this 33 seconds of a scene and you’ll see just how great Fichtner is in this flick. Be warned, it is not safe for work…
Something else may have stood out for you in that clip – the framed picture of a pissed-off Jesus with his fist raised in anger. I don’t know if there is anything that can better encapsulate what kind of movie this is besides that picture. I do know that it is my life’s mission to find that picture and get it on my living room wall as soon as possible.
We can’t talk about the actors and not spend ample time on Amber Heard. Heard is downright kick-ass in this movie. Threatened with being killed and eaten, her response is the all too perfect “Between now and then, I’ma fuck you up”. Heard plays her role in the film ingeniously – she’s clearly tough as hell, but if she had her way, she wouldn’t have to go around fighting cultists.
Oh, David Morse and Tom Atkins are in this thing too. Seriously, how can you say “no” to that cast?
The MPAA gave DRIVE ANGRY an R rating for “strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language”. I can’t help but think that there was a struggle to get this movie down to an R, though as far as I know, an unrated version has never been released. There is so much gore in this flick, so much joyous, almost cartoon-ish levels of violence that I’m amazed this movie was given a wide release. If I had to guess, I’d bet that every five to ten minutes, you’re seeing something that will make the gorehound inside you happy. Mind you, if there isn’t a gorehound inside your soul, this movie really isn’t for you.
Patrick Lussier brings the same 3D inventiveness he did to MY BLOODY VALENTINE, ramping it even more than he did with that classic of the sadly short-lived modern slasher era. If you can see DRIVE ANGRY in 3D, do it. This is a movie that plays up the abilities of the tech and while it is still a blast in 2D, there’s something missing without the third dimension. Lussier built every shot around the tech, and it makes every moment work so much better.
If there’s one mistake in DRIVE ANGRY, one that I think hurts the movie, it is the soundtrack, This is a movie about a guy who drives out of Hell only to find himself in Florida with the need to get to an abandoned prison in Louisiana before his granddaughter is killed by Satanists and there isn’t even a hint of Southern Rock in the soundtrack. No Lynyrd Skynyrd. No Foghat. No Creedence Clearwater Revival. Not even a little Molly Hatchet. This is a movie that screams out for an amazing soundtrack, and while there are some solid choices like T.Rex and Peaches, the missing guitar riffs that could only come from a band hanging around Arkansas in the mid-to-late 1970s would have turned things up another notch, reaching well past 11.
This isn’t to say that the score by Michael Wandmacher – who also did the score for the amazing and equally underappreciated PUNISHER: WAR ZONE – isn’t solid, it is. But this is a movie that should have a soundtrack that sounds more like SUPERNATURAL and less like ROSWELL. The song selection should amp up the viewer as much as the spectacle on screen does.
DRIVE ANGRY is a dirty, sweaty, down right nasty flick that gets a whole lot right. It isn’t a movie I would recommend to just anyone, and it is one I’ve gotten into multiple arguments with friends over, but I would be remiss if I didn’t try to get more people to give this one a chance. Will you love it like I do? I can’t say for sure. But I’m pretty confident that if you dig balls-to-the-wall craziness and out-of-this-world action, you’ll have a good time with this one.