Feb 26, 2011

Drive Angry [3D] [18]

Dir: Patrick Lussier 
Well, that was stupid. Of course, it was always intended to be stupid, it's a film about a man (Nicolas Cage) who breaks out of Hell to drive across America, seeking vengeance on the cult (led by Billy Burke) that killed his daughter, with a waitress (Amber Heard) in tow and the Devil's right hand man (Willam Fichtner) in pursuit. Unfortunately, for the most part, it's not quite the kind of deliriously stupid stew it needs to be in order to be fun.

That's one of the things that hobbles Drive Angry, the other is 3D. To begin with the technical issue... the film's trailers boast that it is 'shot in state-of-the-art 3D', well, if this is the state-of-the-art then the art is completely worthless, because Drive Angry looks like crap.  If there is one thing that 3D struggles to do well it is fast moving action, so what better story to apply it to than one that largely takes place in cars and seldom has more than five minutes downtime between action scenes? The action is hideous; a blurry, indistinct mess, robbed by the broken process of what tiny scintilla of tension it might otherwise have possessed. Stillness is little better, the 3D is catastrophically poor, rendering the screen like a viewmaster, presenting each shot in distinct layers, and only the middle ground ever in focus - PROGRESS! Worst of all is an odd effect that I haven't seen before from 3D. There is a distinct impression here of viewing the film through glass, as if every shot were in a glass case at a museum. Far from drawing you in, as modern 3D is supposed to do, it actively excludes you as a viewer.

Sometimes Drive Angry hits just the right lunatic tone, notably whenever William Fichtner's dry 'Accountant' is on screen (especially when we see him driving a tanker full of hydrogen fuel into a Police roadblock, while singing), but it's also frequently guilty of taking itself too seriously and ending up being not dumb fun, but just plain dumb. Amazingly it is Nicolas Cage who is the worst offender, this is the perfect vehicle for Cage to fly completely off the handle and give a performance of enormous hammy lunacy, but he doesn't do it. Except for one scene, in which he engages in a gunfight while having sex with a waitress, Cage's performance is abnormally downbeat (well, for him, and for a film like this) at times you suspect that he's actually trying to give real character and meaning to John Milton, to actually make us feel something here. It's a nice effort, but the script just doesn't support it.

The aforementioned Fichtner nails the tone perfectly, and for the too few minutes that he's on screen Drive Angry sputters to life. Amber Heard also knows exactly what this film is, and what she's doing in it; her tough girl waitress is often a lot of fun, though the relationship between her and Milton never develops enough to make the film's rather soggy ending play.

At the end of the day, Drive Angry is nothing like as bad as Patrick Lussier's last film, the terrible My Bloody Valentine 3D, but it's also not very good. It's just so much less fun than it should be. Robert Rodriguez nailed the tone of a modern exploitation film with both Planet Terror and Machete, and I'd suggest looking out either of those rather than suffering the appalling 3D of Drive Angry for an experience that will be much less entertaining.

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