Drive Angry (2011)

Director: Patrick Lussier

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse

Okay, I admit it… This is another one of those movies which I sought out purely because of the woman in the poster art. I enjoy the female form. Sue me. Yet, there’s more to “Drive Angry” than just the sexual appeal of its female lead. What you have here is equal parts revenge story, 1970’s “car movie,” action, comedy, and just the right splash of the supernatural for good measure. Nicolas Cage came in already familiar with this kind of movie, having played another unkillable anti-hero with ties to Hell in 2007’s “Ghost Rider” (and would follow “Drive Angry” with a “Ghost Rider” sequel). One difference between Johnny Blaze and Cage’s character here is that he seems to be having more fun with the part. He’s also working with a more well-written script. That always helps. No doubt named for the author of “Paradise Lost,” Milton may not find his origins in comic books, but his creators have a knack for setting up in-joke references.

Jonah King (Billy Burke) is the leader of a cult which has the means by which to bring Hell to Earth. For Milton, this wouldn’t change much since he’s already been there, but he has other reasons for performing a jailbreak from the Underworld. It seems that Milton’s daughter had joined this cult. When she decided to leave, Jonah forbade it, so she robbed Jonah of his manhood and Jonah killed her. Worse still, Jonah plans on sacrificing Milton’s infant granddaughter, the only tie to Milton’s daughter left to him, in order to raise Hell. As good a reason as any for a guilt-ridden father to come back from the dead.

Of course, this unholy cross between the Crow, Mad Max and the Terminator is still going to need a ride. In Oklahoma, he helps out a waitress with a nasty domestic situation (involving a two-timing husband played by screenwriter Todd Farmer), and then hops in the driver’s seat of her car: a black 1969 Dodge Charger. Not that Piper (Amber Heard) can’t take care of herself in a fight, as we see in numerous occasions where she recklessly takes on men who should be able to ruin that pretty face of hers. The best is her introduction where she fends off sexual harassment from the fat cook at the diner by grabbing him by the balls so hard that it hurts me to watch it. Reportedly, actress Amber Heard is very much like her character in real life. If that is true, I would not want to be the guy who pisses her off.

Completing the package is actor William Fichtner. He has this permanent look on his face that just screams “arrogant asshole.” In “Heat,” he did all that he could to screw Robert De Niro before getting his comeuppance. In “The Dark Knight,” he’s the bank manager in the opening scene who is willing to stand up against the Joker before getting a smoke bomb shoved in his mouth. His most memorable role up to this point has been as Col. Willie Sharp, the know-it-all NASA astronaut who is resentful of a team of oil drillers being tasked with saving the world in “Armageddon.” In “Drive Angry,” Fichtner plays an agent of Satan known simply as “the Accountant” who will stop at nothing to see Milton (in his eyes, little more than an escaped convict) returned to Hell where he belongs. Like Milton, he’s not an evil man, but he’s not exactly what you’d consider “good” either.

“Drive Angry” is honestly one of Nicolas Cage’s better films of the last decade or so. Possibly because it’s not a crappy remake (“The Wicker Man”) nor an ill-conceived comic book adaptation (“Ghost Rider”), and there’s more than one word in its title (“Next,” “Knowing,” “Trespass,” etc.). Having a blonde bombshell like Amber Heard along for the ride is definitely a plus, but is also not a crutch for the movie to either stand or fall on. “Drive Angry,” born of two 1970’s stand-by’s (the Steve McQueen high-octane car chase thriller and gothic horror), covers all of its bases so completely that it is bound to please just about anyone.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Yes, and I am one of those whom it did please! I thoroughly enjoyed it and whenever I tune in accidentally toward the end of the film, I keep watching. The ending is “worth the price of admission!”
    Highly entertaining!

  2. desertrat31 says:

    “I never disrobe before a gunfight.”

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