“Drive Angry 3D” is the rip-roaring, hellacious road trip movie starring Nicholas Cage (“Knowing,” “National Treasure”.) Cage is Milton, a former felon who has broken out of, well . . . hell because a cult has killed his daughter and kidnapped his infant grandchild. The cult’s leader, Jonah King, portrayed by Billy Burke (“Charlie Swan” from the “Twilight” movies), plans to sacrifice the baby so that he can live eternally, or something like that. Milton teams up with a sexy, tough waitress named Piper, played by Amber Heard (“The Stepfather,” “The Joneses”). Piper happens to have access to a 69 Charger. So the two blast off on a race against time to save the child and to exact revenge on the cult. Meanwhile, Milton is being tracked by a killer named The Accountant played by William Fichtner (“Contact,” “Crash”) who was sent by the Devil himself to capture Milton and take him back to hell.
Things get off to a great start in “Drive Angry.” The first half of the film was moralless–filled with violence, bullets, action, explosions, cheesy acting and stupid dialogue–and I loved it. But soon, as often is the case these days, the film devolved, the story went off-road, and I started squirming in my seat hoping the end would come. By the finale, my head ached. I don’t know if it was from the 3D glasses or the mind-numbingly stupid plot.
The movie was directed by Patrick Lussier (“Dracula 2000,” “My Bloody Valentine”) who shows he can have a good time. The earlier part of the movie has a pulpy-tongue-in-cheek-we-know-this-is-stupid-but-let’s-just-have-fun feel. It was shot stylishly, and things move fast. But the film does not sustain that pace. Instead the action becomes bland–with lots of jump cuts, mindless shooting and preposterous scenarios.
Cage is fine. We know he’s a good actor; he’s proven this. But he’s also proven that he’ll act in just about anything if it pays well enough. Such is the case here. In some scenes he milks it very well. In other scenes, there’s no real character, just tough guy angst. Fichtner is great as The Accountant. He plays this role with quiet gusto, and I appreciated his humor. Heard does well too, though admittedly, these aren’t exactly serious dramatic roles. Burke as the cult leader, on the other hand, is one of the film’s big weaknesses. He has a cool raspy voice, but otherwise, nothing. His character as written is not really all that frightening. In fact, a couple of scenes were just silly. Spoiler in brackets: [We’re even treated to a scene akin to something like this: “I’m going to kill you, but first, I’m going to make you suffer, so let me put down my gun so you can get away.”] Aside from that, we’re also treated to a distracting and silly hairpiece on a supporting cast member. I know that’s an odd thing to say. It was odd seeing it in the movie as well.
In the end, I’d say “Drive Angry 3D” was half of a fun ride. The first half revs up with pulpy action and fun, but then it slowly runs out of gas.
Afterthought: Don’t read too much into the Cage’s character’s name “Milton” and John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost.” The only similarities I see are the name and the fact that Satan is supposedly behind The Accountant tracking down Milton.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
2011, Rated R, 104 minutes, Action, Comedy, Fantasy