Nicolas Cage is cinematic royalty. Nephew to Francis Ford Coppola, Cage is an Academy Award Winner for Leaving Las Vegas in 1995 and nominated for Adaptation in 2002. But he also has a reputation for making some strange choices in movie roles. Several movies on his resume are unforgiveable. Audiences who don’t worship Cage for his manic commitment to every performance, are suspicious when his name comes up before the title of a film. Drive Angry for example, slipped into the box office early 2011 and according to IMDB tanked its opening weekend pulling just over 5 million. On Rottentomatoes, it doesn’t quite split critics down the middle with a 45 percent rating. Submitted for your Turkey Day approval, Drive Angry 3D is one of the greatest pieces of cinematic trash ever done. Its a bold, exploitative, shiny piece of Grindhouse cinema that couldn’t care less about your standards or awards or critics. It is what it is and its proud of itself, seeming at times to openly mock its own ambition. Never wanting to be anything more than a cartoon with cool 3D blood splatters, and mirror shined American muscle cars. If you’ve never sat with it, here’s a description based on a re-watch the other night:
Cage plays John Milton, a man with a mysterious criminal past, who steals the devils Buick Riviera and breaks out of hell in order to save his newborn granddaughter from the hands of evil cult leader Jonah King (Billy Berke). King wants to use the infant for a satanic ritual. Armed with a supernatural God Gun, Milton is joined on his mission by former waitress, Piper (Amber Heard). Piper’s no whiny, needing to be saved Generic, but a young woman who, as we meet her, finally stands up after being victimized by slimy, perverted bosses and jerk boyfriends. Both of them are stalked by The Accountant, (scene-stealing William Finchtner) the dude who keeps a count of all the souls in hell. He cooly strolls out of hell confident in bringing Milton back.
Drive Angry 3D is unconcerned with logic, physics and stays focused on being as entertaining as possible. Its graphic as old Tom & Jerry cartoons and at times just as funny. People are stabbed, eyes gorged out, a dude is even knocked on his ass by an air conditioner. But its hard to put into a context how outrageous and bold the film is without giving up some of its jaw-droppingly funny achievements. Respectfully, Drive Angry 3D doesn’t give a f**k. When a car spins out on a bridge and touches the railing, it flips several times mid-air like a quarter before landing at the feet of two stoners. Dismiss Cage as an actor, call him crazy or whatever. But few actors could manage the films centerpiece: a hotel room shootout where Cage battles a roomful of assassins while simultaneously having sex with a waitress and not spilling a drop of Jack Daniels from his bottle. I dare Daniel Day Lewis to match that.
Though its not solely Cage’s show. Bill Fichtner’s Accountant was the film’s highlight for me. Dressed as if he’d stepped out of a scotch whiskey commercial, The Accountant is smooth, James Bond as a demon, unimpressed by humanity. He’s also very funny.
My biggest regret is not seeing this on the big screen in 3D since 3D is part of the legal title of Drive Angry 3D. Unlike so many films these days, the film was shot in 3D and not sloppily converted after the fact. So gun shells flip out towards the camera, a hand blown off by shotgun somersaults midair and appears to land in your lap.
Drive Angry 3D feels like the kind of movie two guys create while sitting at a bar half drunk. But dig this: What if those guys were the most entertaining guys at the building? Drive Angry is a lot of things: its car porn full of muscle cars speeding, jumping and being pretty. It’s a gratuitous popcorn movie with liberal splashes of blood and no other aspirations than to entertain. Its women look airbrushed, its violence stylized, its humor kinda Junior High School with a dose of gross. You’ve seen characters walk away from a car accident or ball of fire before, but never quite like this. Drive Angry 3D is continuously creative where a lot of really bad films are just lazy. This is Extra-Strength Red Bull creative. And for sitting with family or friends over a bottle of something, I can’t think of anything more balls to the wall fun… that few have ever seen.