'Drive Angry' an over-the-top delight

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Billy Burke stars in "Drive Crazy".

When the first previews for Nicolas Cage's "Drive Angry" were flying around, I barely gave it another look. Another quicky flick to make a little cash -- that's seemed to be Cage's formula for success at this point in his career. However, after "Drive Angry" showed up in my mailbox and I popped it in my DVD player, I found something very surprising.

"Drive Angry" follows Milton (Cage) as he breaks out of Hell (yes, that Hell) to prevent a cult from sacrificing the child of his murdered daughter. The idea might sound gallant, but Milton himself has a checkered past and will go to any length to find the head of the cult Jonah King, superbly played by Billy Burke, including dispatching people with a multitude of firearms.

Once he learns where the sacrifice is to take place, Milton enlists the help of super sassy, hottie waitress Piper (Amber Heard) and her boyfriend's equally beautiful 1969 Dodge Charger.

During their journey, we get one of the best scenes in the movie. As they stop at a familiar haunt -- no pun intended -- of Milton's, the duo decides to indulge in the pleasures the place has to offer. Milton hooks up with an aging waitress, and as we move to their room, we see Milton and the woman "having relations" as he smokes a super-sized cigar. As baddies invade the room, Milton begins killing them one by one in a blaze of gunfire, all the while still smoking his cigar and continuing to have "relations" with the woman.

But as Milton and Piper race to stop the sacrifice, he is being tracked by The Accountant (William Fichtner), a specter of man whose job it is to keep Hell in balance and that means bringing Milton back.

The film is filled with classic cars, crazy action scenes and the over-the-top acting Cage is great at. Listening to the commentary track by writer/director Patrick Lussier and writer Todd Farmer reveals the little things Cage added on the fly and they are perhaps some of the best from his character.

The best way to describe "Drive Angry" is a wanna-be grindhouse flick. The effects are down and dirty, the dialog is, I hope, meant to be woefully over the top and the action sequences are filled with buckets of blood. It doesn't quite live up to the grindhouse moniker, but it tries with all it has.

Cage is really good as Milton and provides the actor the type of vehicle he normally excels at. It seems with Cage the more ridiculous the material is, the better he is. But for my money, the two performances that are not to be missed are those delivered by Burke and Fichtner.

Fichtner provided a great mix of creepy and funny as the accountant. Even as he's making mincemeat out of people, he does so with such comedic flair, you love every minute of it. His highlight is when he pins Piper's boyfriend, Frank (Farmer), against a wall with a broken baseball bat. As he's asking questions, he punctuates each with a tap to the bat holding the man to the wall.

And as for Burke, I truly believe he may be one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. What pains me is most younger audience members know him as Bella's daddy Charlie in the Twilight series. I think after his turn as Johan King, offers will be flying in. It's not a traditionally great performance, but it's one you won't forget anytime soon. The devilish southern drawl came to the actor the day of the audience and its perfect for the character.

Of course, the DVD version I have is 2D, but the 3D effects are still there and look incredibly bad. I wish the filmmakers would have gone back and either cut the scenes or gave us a 2D alternative, because in the state they are right now, they look ridiculous. Cheap special effects I can deal with -- crappy 3D, I cannot.

The DVD features a nice commentary from Lussier and Farmer, whose wit and humor make it almost as enjoyable as the film. The featurette "How To: Drive Angry" and "Milton Mayhem" and a few deleted scenes are all you get.

All in all, "Drive Angry" is a helluva good time with nice grindhouse value, but it also has that been there, done that vibe because honestly we have. No new ground is broken, but the trio of Cage, Burke and Fichtner make it worth a watch

3.5 out of 5 Stars