Director: Patrick Lussier
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichter, Billy Burke, David Morse
Plot: Milton (Cage) is a mysterious stranger, intent on tracking down the satanic cult that wants to sacrifice his grand-daughter. However, something is tracking him.
I have never been too sure what to make of this movie. It has a few warning bells right off of the bat: Nicolas Cage, being a brainless action movie, Nicolas Cage. It’s not truly awful however.
Drive Angry’s biggest problem is that it gives away its twist too late into the movie. Without spoiling it for anyone, Drive Angry begins as a fairly normal beat-em-up. A grizzled action hero has to cross the State to save his baby grand-daughter from being sacrificed. He teams up with Amber Heard, your safe bet at an attractive co-star, and punches some people until he gets answers. Fair enough: generic action movies have their benefits. However, then things begin to get a little weird. The movie decides to take on a surreal tone, almost as if it wants to be something similar to Sin City or 300, but without bothering with the artistic visuals. It becomes hard to take the movie seriously, when William Fichter’s character picks up the ability to punch a man across a room without breaking a sweat. Slowly, the surreal tone makes sense and it turns out that this is because Lussier is hiding a twist under his belt. In fact, I almost admire the film for handling such a brave development, especially as it is the type of narrative trick that most directors fall under. However, if it was dropped a little earlier into the movie, Drive Angry would be a much easier pill to swallow. It is hard to enjoy as much as we should, because the twist needs time to settle into our imaginations and the movie doesn’t want to slow down and let us get over what we just witnessed.
Drive Angry does have little quirks that make it worthy of your attention. Mainly William Fichter, who is turning into a more impressive actor every time I see him in something. He never seems to want to embrace fame, even though he could probably give most A-List actors a run for their money (you know, someone like Nicolas Cage). Fichter just has fun here. He is given the most oddball character in the movie; it is his bad guy that is mired in this surreal style the most. Fichter manages to come across as creepy, yet with a touch of delightful sophistication. He knows that this is the right kind of movie where an actor doesn’t need to go full-on with a performance, but merely chew the scenery. He does exactly that and becomes the element that grounds this film. He is so much fun to spend time with that you just want to lean back and watch him do his thing. That is a lot more than could be said for Nicolas Cage or Amber Heard. Cage is his usual self, which isn’t a good thing, and Amber Heard has her usual habit of drifting through a movie. It doesn’t hurt proceedings, because Drive Angry is the kind of movie where an actress is allowed to drift through. However, it doesn’t help her win over the large group of critics that don’t have much time for her.
There is one scene in Drive Angry that I really enjoyed; one that didn’t really have anything to do with anything. The moment Cage and Heard meet up, you assume you know where this is going. The two of them are going to end up having sex at some point in the movie, because Drive Angry never seems to be breaking any new ground with the genre (at least at this point of the movie). However, when the two have their first break from action and give the audience time to settle, they make no move on each other. They share their life stories, all of the usual exposition we need to cover, and then they go off and pick up separate partners to take to their rooms. Amber Heard respects Milton as the action hero he is, yet she isn’t attracted to this middle-aged grizzled figure, which makes sense. Her choice of lover for the evening is a more traditional handsome male, who she makes paint her nails, before even entertaining the concept of sex. It is hardly modern feminism, but you have to respect the movie for trying something different and not just romantically pairing up the two leads, because they were the two leads. It seems like an odd thing to compliment, but for me, it raised Drive Angry’s quality up a notch.
Final Verdict: Drive Angry is a little too surreal and different to fully embrace as a fun action, yet it does have strong points, especially William Fichter.