Some films don't need a point. The plot is just a way to string action sequences together. Heck, most of the 'Fast and the Furious' films are perfect examples of this. With guy movies, what matters most is seeing what you wanted to see. Hot girls, fast cars, awesome gunfights, cool characters, bloody carnage, smart dialogue stringing it all together; the more there is, the merrier the experience will be. Patrick Lussier's 'Drive Angry' is a film that doesn't require brains to watch. In fact, the more you think, the more likely you are to spot moments that just don't work logically. Perhaps that's why Lussier designed this flick to have as much happening as possible, with some very elaborate set pieces and scenes sure to get one's adrenaline pumping. It's probably not the best film for female audiences, as it lacks any delicacy or subtlety, whatsoever, on top of numerous moments with violence against women or bits that can readily be seen as demeaning towards the finer sex.
The "plot" isn't all that elaborate. The death of John Milton (Nicolas Cage)'s daughter and her husband at the hands of a satanic cult was bad enough, but the plans of Jonah King (Billy Burke) and his followers to sacrifice Milton's newborn granddaughter under a full moon to bring hell to Earth is the last straw. The cult gets their wish, in a sense, as Milton breaks out of hell to seek vengeance, in an attempt to save his granddaughter's life. He's gunning for anyone involved in the affair, working from the bottom up, and he's leaving a trail of bodies in his wake, delivering more and more souls to the underworld. Accompanied by the smoking hot Piper (Amber Heard), Milton has only a few days to make things right, and it doesn't help that The Accountant (William Fichtner), a demon attempting to retrieve Milton back to Satan's grasp, is hot on his trail.
Cage isn't the perfect casting, and, as much as I hate to say this, he may be the one weak link. His portrayal of Milton is a bit too calm and collected for someone who was just burning in hell, who now has demonic forces on his ass to bring him back home. You can see the determination in his eyes, but it's just not there in his performance, in body language or tone of voice. It's almost reminiscent of his uneven 'Ghost Rider' performance, a similar role.
The film is full of wonderful over the top violence, and the tone is set early for what kind of insanity will take place, and while the "plot" development does take time, the way it's laid out, rather than just thrown in your face to attempt to comprehend, makes for a good, interesting pace, at first. Action set pieces are spread through the film a bit too predictably, though, and after a while, the film begins to feel like a constant ramp up, ramp down back and forth pendulum that doesn't know which way it wants to go, sadly. The more we see of the satanic cult, the less menace there is, as they just seem like a bunch of rednecks whose only difference from other rednecks is their symbols. Oooo, sinister. They're an anti-climax, and the fact that they're lead by Charlie Swan should be a hint as to how organized and effective they are. If only he were interesting in sacrificing people while in that other film series...
The real catch of 'Drive Angry' has to be Fichtner, though, and when he's on screen, the best in Cage is brought out. The Accountant has to be the coolest thing in the film, and that includes the random limb dismemberment via shotgun, or the super fast muscle cars on display. The character is amazingly layered, with an obvious set of intentions, as well as some hidden ones, which makes him more three dimensional than anyone else in the flick (of course, in the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man...you know...). His Obolos (Greek coin) is a fantastic touch, as the man who knows when everyone is going to die (who openly flaunts this fact) makes what should be the payment over the river Styx a weapon as well as a tool that he manipulates into an FBI badge, its mere presence making him an ancient being, a mythological twist. He's somewhat like Azrael in 'Dogma,' a brooding, sinister demon who has ulterior motives, yet an ever present goal, as well. Of course, this is a role Fichtner can eat up, as his air of confidence in a position of power is equaled in modern cinema only by David Strathairn.
If you think about 'Drive Angry' too hard, the film does fall apart, though. If Milton is an escapee from hell, why does he bleed when shot? Why doesn't he die when shot, and return back where he belongs? How does he heal? Can he die? It's almost as if he's the titular character from 'The Crow,' only the real defining bits of his being aren't explained, and we're left with a character whose identity is impossible to relate to, as he's no longer really human. The idea of the Godkiller weapon is a thing of beauty, don't get me wrong, but its application in the film is also a bit peculiar. Milton stole the weapon on his way out of hell, and this powerful gun could change his fate...yet he only nabbed three bullets. He fires one, hands it to Piper to reload, yet...there's nothing to reload, as he only has two more of the powerful shells. What gives with that? It's almost like the script was changed mid-film, and this artifact just lingers. If one were to interpret it as though he only had one bullet in it at first, why?! Even that makes no sense, as no explanation does.
'Drive Angry,' at its core, is a popcorn movie, a fun ride to hell and back, featuring a solid cast, plenty of gore and nudity (and one of the most bizarre-slash-insane sex scenes ever), and a few likable characters along the way. It's nice to see the way the film unfolds, the story told in teaspoon increments, but the repetitive nature of action scenes, as well as the predictable nature of their placement in the film can be a bit much. Leave your brain in another room when going into this flick. Ignore the plot holes, if you can. Hell, ignore Cage's acting as much as possible, as he's merely typecast in this silly twist on similar, existing films.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Drive Angry' arrives on Blu-ray two ways: a single disc 2D version, and a 3D/2D combo, that features a separate disc for each version of the film. The discs are both marked for Region A playback, both on BD50's. The 3D disc features 3D menus, the 2D disc, obviously, does not.
'Drive Angry' is the first Blu-ray 3D release from Summit Entertainment (beware, the 'Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn' films are likely to come calling soon...), and it's a very solid first effort from the studio. With a full 1080p 3D transfer, using the MVC tool at 1.78:1, this is a title that will surely find a home in any self respecting 3D owner's home, directed by the man who helped revive 3D with 'My Bloody Valentine 3D.' If you saw the horror remake, you know exactly what Lussier is going to do with this film (for those who missed out: more than your fair share of objects coming towards the camera!).
The end result is very impressive. There are tons, just tons of great shots, with sets being seemingly scouted for their potential pop and intricacy, while some action sequences were clearly designed with 3D in mind (just like in 'Resident Evil: Afterlife'). Picture depth is really quite good, and once the special effects laden hell opening shot (which doesn't have much pop due to the heavy gimmickry), the picture sets its sights on blowing you out of your chair with its realism. Sure, there are moments like the windshield in the opening car crash that look absolutely horrible, like they were some post-production special effect (and if this was practical, damn was it horrendous!), but even through that, the depth behind the picture, especially other shots in the scene, the crawling movements of survivors is something so basic, yet so awesome.
Characters are the real treat in this film, visually. Sure, the deep backgrounds and random "in your face" effects are nice, but I was floored at the clarity, the amount of detail in almost every face, in every scene. The camera setups used for this film create some serious wow-worthy moments, with constant, accurate skin tones only helping the picture. Blood drops and splatters are superb and amazingly sharp, and the random stray hair off Nic Cage's blonde bird wig are absolutely great. I couldn't stop staring at Amber Heard's skin, as you can see the small crevices, the smoothness, the patterns her flesh takes; it's really a sight to behold, especially on such a stunning young lass.
What's neat about this film is some of the smaller effects that might be taken for granted by some. I absolutely loved the flashback sequences, as the 3D effect makes the way that two contrasting images happening at the same time, layered, were like watching two screens, rather than just one with an awkward blend. I wanted to stand up and clap for how such a simple shot was so damned amazing in 3D (and kudos to the people responsible for said idea!). It's tough to hate on a release that has constant reflections on the gorgeous paint jobs of beautifully painted fast cars...in 3D, let alone bullets flying everywhere...in 3D. The Godkiller gun, and the effects that come with it, and their fit in the deep picture, hoo boy are they demo worthy moments!
Of course, as the star rating indicates, not all is perfect. I don't mind the heavy aliasing and jaggedness of the Summit logo (fail!), since that's not the film itself. There are, however, random bits where items like guard rails and other horizontal-esque lines get a slight jagged nature to them. The grain level of the film remains very low to non-existant, depending on which camera is used in any given shot, and the random moment it is heavier (for this film, heavier means barely noticeable) doesn't effect 3D depth, even if it is a bit odd to see. Dark sequences are just too damn hard to see at times, and for a film that is amazingly bright and perfect in day shots, the night moments just don't hold up, and depth suffers. Ghosting is not a major issue, as there is only a very small handful of bits that were just barely visible, not hideous eyesores (at night, said ghosting is increased). Characters themselves rarely ever have that errant shadow, so the small random bit here and there is hardly anything to complain about. All in all, I really enjoyed this release, and it has more than a few demo-worthy moments in it. However, none of those moments are at night. When well lit, 'Drive Angry' is the shit.
Summit's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for 'Drive Angry' is impressive, though not top tier. Dialogue is pitch perfect, with not a single millisecond of distortion, inaccurate dynamics, or prioritization issue. Every line comes through, sparklingly clear, ready to rock your world with its insight! Rear channels get plenty of random localized effects, and heavy action sequences put you in the film (as if 3D didn't already), with shit just going off everywhere. Bass levels start out somewhat light, but pick up when necessary, including in the bumping soundtrack.
The only reasons this track didn't receive the top possible score is the lack of real balls. For a film that's 100 percent balls to the walls, there should be a ton of loud, and I mean L-O-U-D moments, and this film really doesn't turn it to 11. It sounds great, but it doesn't wow you with what could have been more than a couple standout moments and scenes. Impressed as I was, I noticed more than a few sequences that left me wanting.
The 3D disc of this release is barebones, only featuring a BD-Live portal. Hooray. The following extras are found on the 2D version:
'Drive Angry,' I wanted to love. Really. I'm a Nic Cage fanatic, and throwing him a bone like this, a role that has no limits, it should have hit me in all the right spots. Instead, I kept my eyes on William Fichtner of 'Prison Break' fame, as his character (and performance) stole the show. Amber Heard...yeah, that was just the cherry on top of the Fichtner awesomeness sundae. Summit's first Blu-ray 3D release is a hit, even if it leaves room for improvement. It's reasonably priced, as well, a real plus. It comes with my recommendations, flawed as the film is.