Silver Screen: Drive Angry 3D **1/2
Drive Angry-- also known, rather solicitously, as Drive Angry 3D-- belongs to a new sub-genre of action movie that exists solely to toss red meat (often literally) to fanboys. The preeminent example of this would be the two-installment Crank series, although the best incarnation is the already forgotten Clive Owen shoot 'em up not so subtly named Shoot 'Em Up.
These movies seem reverse-constructed to appease the movie's core demographic. Of course, that's really just pandering, which is nothing new under the projector bulb. But there's a certain hyperkinetic eagerness to please-- think Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars-- that pushes it into the realm of something like new. But they buck a trend in that, unlike most films, they aren't pandering toward a broader demographic but rather straining harder to please a narrower but specific audience, to imagine everything a jaded genre film fan wants to see and then giving it to them in a distilled hyperdose. So shooting becomes a hailstorm of bullets and bodies, blood splatters become geysers of entrails, tits become 3D tits, and story is actually disdained in favor of the pleasure of the moment. Think of these movies like the filmic equivalent of a human homunculus, weirdly swollen in all the pleasure centers but anemic through the middle.
So a movie like Drive Angry, to an even greater degree than most other films, can only be judged within the context it dances so wildly to establish. It's not going to be good or bad (or rather, it's going to be bad), it's going to be either sweet, kick-ass, bro!, or not that kick-ass at all.
On that scale, Drive Angry is pretty kick-ass. Nicolas Cage, seemingly eager to distance himself from Oscar bait and art films in search of ever deeper levels of cartoonishness, stars as Milton (literary reference!), a dirtbag who was himself laid in the dirt several years past, and now resides in a glowing-red 3D hell. When religious cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke, with one of the least convincing Southern accents of all time) kills Milton's daughter and abducts his granddaughter, our antihero steals a car and a magic shotgun and makes a break from Beelzebub, who is presented (always indirectly) as a reluctant warden of a metaphysical jail.
King plans to sacrifice the baby in a ritual he thinks will usher in Hell on Earth. Milton is hot on his trail, having hooked up with a gun-toting blonde (Amber Heard) he saved from her abusive boyfriend. Meanwhile, Milton himself is pursued by the Accountant (William Finchter, having more fun than anybody), an Ü ber-calm agent of the Devil sent to bring the escapee back to the clink.
Along the way there's lots of gunfights, gore, and sex, all of which are treated with equal reverence (and a hard-rock soundtrack), and all of which are preceded by deadpan quips and goofy one-liners. Those one-liners, penned by director Patrick Lussier and his writing partner Todd Farmer, are clever enough that they, along with Finchter's repressed, button-down ire, keep the movie rolling in the occasional fifteen-second stretch when parts of cars and/or people are not flying out of the screen. For better of for worse, that's what we came for.