Drive Angry 3D

Rare is the second chance and wouldn’t many of us do anything to have a few.  A second chance to sink the winning free throw missed in a championship basketball game, to introduce yourself to the one that got away, to look both ways one more time before pulling out in front of that car, to take that big test in college.  Many people would like a second chance living their entire life.  No one gets that chance, except in the movies.  This week, Nicolas Cage tries to make up for being an absent father by saving the life of his granddaughter in “Drive Angry.”

John Milton (Nicolas Cage) was such a bad man in life that when he died, he was sent to Hell; but, when his daughter is killed by satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) and her new baby kidnapped to sacrifice under the next full moon, Milton escapes eternal damnation to save his granddaughter and avenge his daughter.  In his search for King, Milton runs across a feisty diner waitress named Piper (Amber Heard).  Having just quit her job and broken up with her cheating fiancé, Piper agrees to give Milton a ride in her suped-up ‘69 Charger.  With her life at a crossroads, Piper offers to help Milton in his search.  Milton’s escape from Hell hasn’t gone unnoticed by management.  The Accountant (William Fichtner) is sent to search for Milton and bring him back.

“Drive Angry” will never be confused with an art film.  It is a loud, silly, grinding popcorn movie that has all the weight of a bag of cotton candy.  It replaces story with action scenes and character development with naked women.  While this might sound like a complaint, it’s not.  I’ve seen movies like this before.  As I watched the film, it has a similar style of movies from the 1970’s about people on the fringes of society who find the bravery to stand up and fight back against those who consider themselves powerful.  Some of those films, like 1974’s “Macon County Line,” are considered minor classics.  This is not likely to be the fate of “Drive Angry.”

The first thing I noticed about the movie is it looks rather cheap.  The sets, the costumes, the special effects, all of it looks very slapped together.  The film was probably made as cheaply as possible to make sure they had enough cash to cover Nicolas Cage’s salary.  I suspect Cage is in this movie (and many of his other recent flicks) simply for the paycheck to help clear up his massive IRS debt.  Perhaps that also explains the lackadaisical style of his acting. 

Cage sleepwalks through much of his role as Milton, keeping his performance low-key and cool.  It mostly struck me as Cage was bored by the movie and that feeling was contagious.  The rest of the actors in “Drive Angry” are guilty of over acting.  Amber Heard, while easy to look at, spends much of the movie either over emoting with a laid-on-thick accent or rolling around in a fight with one of the ever-present cult members.  Billy Burke oozes through his role as the cult leader, also with a thick accent.  Burke seems to relish his evil character and lays the badness on extra heavy, making his cult leader about as scary as Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies.  Perhaps the one character who actually comes across as the most interesting and centered is the unnamed Accountant played by William Fichtner.  He knows his part is one of the silliest in the picture, yet his is the best written and best acted in the film.  Fichtner delivers his lines with laser-beam precision, giving his fugitive-from-Hell-hunter a comic edge that goes along with the knowledge he could kill you with the change in his pocket (and does dispatch a few characters with a coin).  It’s very good work from a character actor who isn’t a household name but will be recognized by most moviegoers.

Another issue I have with the movie is the story.  There’s so little of it to tell the filmmakers rely on one improbable action scene after another to fill the movie’s running time.  The often repetitive nature of these action scenes is part of what makes “Drive Angry” often quite dull.  It seems to take forever to get to the climactic battle between Milton and King, and even this scene, which should have been the most exciting of the bunch, just falls flat.  While there are some scattered and ironic laughs and enough naked women to staff several stripper bars, “Drive Angry” isn’t driven or angry enough to be all that interesting.

“Drive Angry” is rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language.  Limbs are shot off, broken baseball bats are used to impale people against walls, heads are blown off with close range shotgun blasts, etc., etc.  There are at least two graphic but brief sex scenes and several other views of fully naked women.  And just to make things really interesting, there is a bloody shootout while one of the characters is actively having sex.  Foul language is common.

My final issue with “Drive Angry” is the 3D.  I’ve seen several 3D movies since the format became popular again.  I’ve heard the arguments about how it gives some people headaches and how it makes the picture dim compared to standard films.  This is the first time I can completely agree with both of those complaints.  I’m not sure if the theatre I was in was having a projector issue of if I got a bad set of glasses, but as the film began, I was seeing shadowy double images.  Later, the effect improved somewhat but then the picture seemed very dark.  When I looked over the top of the glasses, the picture brightened significantly but, of course, was unwatchable as it was the unprocessed 3D image.  I could choose to look at a dim, marginally 3D picture or I could see a bright but unwatchable image.  Choosing the former gave me a headache; one I might have gotten even if I had watched a 2D version of this movie.

While it has plenty of action and beautiful (and often naked) women, “Drive Angry” is a poorly conceived, poorly executed supernatural action picture that suffers from a bad 3D print.  Now, where’s the aspirin?

“Drive Angry” gets a marginal three guitars out of five.

It’s a big weekend with four new flicks hitting the multiplex.  Vote on the next movie I see and review.

The Adjustment Bureau--Matt Damon is a politician who discovers a powerful, mysterious group of agents conspiring to keep him from the woman he loves.

Beastly--Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer star in a hyper-modern retelling of the "Beauty and the Beast" tale set in New York City.

Rango--Johnny Depp stars in an animated comedy about a chameleon who faces an identity crisis when he finds himself in the wild west.

Take Me Home Tonight--A group of directionless friends struggle with their burgeoning adulthood over the course of one unforgettable night.

Stan’s Choice--Stan sees and reviews any movie currently in theatres.

Voting in the poll will close at noon Saturday, March 5, 2011.

Release dates are subject to change and not all movies may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

Questions?  Send them to stanthemovieman@att.net.  You can follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.