Regular readers of my reviews might think I’m often too harsh on many releases, and I’m the first to admit that one thing that I value highly is originality in films, with many modern movies being pale imitations of what’s gone before.
That said, I should have found Drive Angry interminable due to its similarity to Ghost Rider and Death Proof, however as I haven’t seen either of those films, this may be one reason why I enjoyed Drive Angry more than I would have expected.
Nicolas Cage plays a grandfather (just about credible at the age of 47) who escapes from Hell, indestructible and undead, to stop a cult of Satanists who murdered his daughter and plan to sacrifice her child in a ritualistic ceremony. Hot on his tale is an equally indestructible (unless Cage shoots him with a gun straight out of Hellboy) bounty-hunter – Hell’s “accountant” – who wants to take him back to the inferno, but doesn’t mind if Cage succeeds in his mission, as the antics of Satanists give his boss a bad name! En route, Cage picks up ‘scream queen’ du jour Amber Heard who tags along for no particular reason and lots of people get shot, vehicles blow up and burning cars fly through the air…
Cage sleepwalks through the role, his lack of interest amusingly portrayed in one scene where he’s having sex with a hooker and while still underneath her has a gun fight with bad guys breaking into his motel room, but William Fichter is terrific as his unflappable nemesis who can turn a coin into an FBI badge and calmly stroll out of an exploding tanker as if it was a walk in the park. Elsewhere the Satanists are all cookie-cutter predictable and Heard continues her comfortable straight to DVD career by kicking, punching and hiding behind tables where appropriate.
Hack director Patrick Lussier makes a reasonable job of the 3D, perhaps due to his background as an editor – as the extra dimension requires more of a sense of construction to the way scenes and shots compliment each other – and perhaps due to the fact this is the first film he’s helmed that isn’t a remake or a sequel, this is why he’s trying a bit harder here than in his previous work, even if it does feel like a remix of the last decade’s horror and action hits. The poster for Drive Angry makes a point of noting that it was ‘shot in 3D’ as opposed to being converted in post-production and it does compliment the B-Movie aspirations of the film well, but still suffers from many of the backgrounds being intentionally out of focus in order to make the 3D more obvious in certain scenes, which is a cinematic aesthetic that doesn’t do any film any favours.
For all of the film’s flaws and lack of ambition, it’s surprisingly fun. No car chase film has been able to improve yet on the likes of Bullitt and The Blues Brothers (although Ronin came closes) because of the low-fi special effects of films made before the advent of CGI, and even when modern directors try to use practical effects, such as Paul “W.S.” Anderson in his underwhelming remake of Death Race 2000, they still tend to look like computers games, but at least Drive Angry looks like a fun computer game, as the stunts are completely unrealistic, over-the-top and often staged to elicit a laugh rather than anything else.
This might be Ghost Rider 1.5 by any other name and basically a dumb, violent, action film that expects little out of its audience other than the fact that they’re going to smuggle a drink into the cinema to make this nonsense bearable, but as dumb, violent, action, drink smuggling films go, it’s the best I’ve seen in a while. Also, since the 3D isn’t half bad, it’s even worth seeing on the big screen, before it finds its spiritual home in endless reruns on Channel 5….