March 2, 2011

Movie Review: Drive Angry (SHOT IN 3D)

Wow. Guilty pleasure alert! Is it wrong of me to say that I loved Drive Angry? It is flawed, it a long drive away from the world of A-list material, and it stars everyone's favorite whipping boy, Nicolas Cage (well one of them anyway). This is a movie that attempts no cover-up of its B (Z?) grade material. I would say it embraces it, but even that would be wrong. This is a movie built on the lowbrow, bolstered by the preposterous, and succeeds on its execution of goofy, over-the-top material.

Yes, I called this a guilty pleasure. It is a term that fits perfectly, but it brings up another question. If you call a movie a guilty pleasure, the connotation is that the movie being described is bad. Let's take a look at that from another direction. A bad movie is usually bad for a reason, but if a "bad" movie connects with you as a viewer is it still bad? If I find a movie that is said to be bad and I like it or find something worthwhile within its frames, can it still be called a bad movie?

Of course opinion is subjective, but it is an interesting conversation. It is one where I have not decided on my side of the argument. In the case of Drive Angry it would be easy to dismiss it as a bad movie; after all, it does not have anything to say about humanity and its story is rather pulpy, common, and lacking in overall substance. Still, there is something to be said about simple material told in an energetic, over the top fashion.

Drive Angry is old school grindhouse. It seems to be coming back in vogue in recent years, a trend that I wholeheartedly endorse. The plot is simple, a man (Cage) escapes from hell to track down the cult that murdered his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. Of course, hell is not happy about it and dispatches the Accountant (William Fichtner) to bring him back. Along the way the man, Milton, meets up with a fiery young woman named Piper (Amber Heard), and they team up to track down the cult and their nefarious leader Jonah King (Billy Burke).

That really is all there is to it. No subtext, no subtlety, no side plots. As directed by Patrick Lussier, who also co-wrote with Todd Farmer (who appears as Frank in the movie), Drive Angry is brash, loud, and crazy. Plenty of bloody action, gratuitous nudity, bad language, and a gun that can kill death itself. Sure, the movie loses a little momentum in the second half as the simple story tries to tell itself, but not enough o hurt my enjoyment of the insanity.

This is a movie that relies on execution. Nicolas Cage is in in full on, crazy-eyed, bad hair mode and it works. He has a certain fake "cool" swagger and and a slow way of speaking that fits the character perfectly. Amber Heard brings pure attitude to Piper, but it is attitude with a hidden vulnerability that makes the character fun for her spunk but interesting for the hidden depth. William Fichtner is great as always as the straight-laced accountant, his character just needs to be seen.

What else can I say? Great cars, big guns, Amber Heard, violence, gun play, fist fights, Amber Heard, blood, guts, hell, jokes, and Amber Heard. "Bad" movie? For sure, but that does not mean it's a bad movie. It is a strange one, that's for sure, and the sort that is not likely to find a large theatrical audience, but I bet it will have good life on home video. This is one that will be fun to revisit.

Oh yes, let us not forget that it was SHOT IN 3D. You cannot see an ad and not see those words. They are not a part of the title and they don't appear in the film with the proper title. It is an exploitative element that makes it feel even more grindhousey. It is something I was glad for. I like 3D, but I do not like post-convert nonsense like Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender (aside from them being bad movies). The 3D of Drive Angry looks good and is used to good effect.

Highly Recommended.

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