Drive Angry 3D

Movie Information

The Story: Nicolas Cage breaks out of hell to save his infant grandchild from being sacrificed by a cult of Satanists. The Lowdown: Preposterous, trashy, tasteless -- full of sex, skin, gore and violence -- and the most fun I've had in a theater this year.
Score:

Genre: Exploitation Trash Action Horror
Director: Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse
Rated: R

The sobering thing about Drive Angry 3D is that I can—with a straight face and in complete seriousness—call it the best film of 2011 so far. (This, of course, does not include certain 2010 latecomers to the provinces.) Considering how completely underwhelming the 2011 releases have been so far, that’s not really saying much, nor does it convey what a completely fine time I had watching this masterwork of exploitation trash. I had looked forward to the movie based on its trailer, and completely mindful of the fact that two-and-a-half minutes of trailer can promise far more than the film itself may be able to deliver. In this case, however, Drive Angry 3D delivered even more than it promised. It fulfilled the lunacy it purported to offer and went further.

Don’t misunderstand. This is no award winner. If anything, it’s anti-Oscar-bait—with more than a whiff of authentic grindhouse madness. It’s everything Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007) ought to have been and never was. Take Death Proof, combine it with Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘Em Up (2007), add a supernatural component, ramp it up and you have Drive Angry 3D. Now top this off with Lussier and cinematographer Brian Pearson proving once again that they know how to stage, light and shoot 3D like nobody else—while fully embracing the gimmick of the whole 3D nonsense—and it’s even better.  In fact, it’s so ridiculously good at what it does that it’s almost guaranteed to be flop at the box office—something its opening weekend performance now assures.

The trick is understanding just what it’s so ridiculously good at. The what is its ability to keep a plot of epic loopiness moving forward while being awash in a copious sea of sex, violence, nudity, gore, absurd chases, one-liners, black comedy, supernatural hooey and a pretty complete subversion of good taste—but with a moral conclusion. Problem is the audience for that is not overwhelming. We’ve seen movies in this key tank time and time again—and it’s always dispiriting for those of us who actually do appreciate genuine trash. I think Drive Angry 3D erred by playing up its action and playing down its horror content in the advertising, but nobody asked me. They could have adapted that Ron Howard flick ad campaign from the ‘70s and made it, “Nicolas Cage pops the clutch and tells ol’ Satan to ‘Eat my dust!’”

Nicolas Cage—at his Cage-iest—stars as John Milton (don’t worry, that’s about as cerebral as the jokes get) who breaks out of hell in a Buick Riviera (the specifics of this are agreeably vague) and makes it back into the world in order to prevent the ritual sacrifice of his infant granddaughter by a devil cult headed up by Jonah King (a weirdly fey Billy Burke). Luck is on his side in the guise of curvaceous waitress Piper (Amber Heard) who decides to throw in her lot—and her boyfriend’s Dodge Charger—with him after she catches said boyfriend (played by co-writer Todd Farmer) having conjugal relations with another woman.

At the same time, however, an emissary from hell called “The Accountant” (a superb William Fichtner) is out to drag Milton back to the fiery furnace. The Accountant is the epitome of unflappable earthly cool. When he learns that Milton took off in a 1969 Charger, his only question is, “The 440 or the Hemi?” (Hell appears to be a savvy place in terms of muscle cars.) In a lot of respects, The Accountant is who makes this movie as much good unwholesome fun as it is. If you had told me prior to Friday that I would love a sequence using “That’s the Way I Like It” on the soundtrack, I’d have questioned your sanity. Not now.

Seriously, this is a wondrously over-the-top outburst of utterly tasteless, hard-R cinematic fun. And if you like that sort of thing, beat a hasty path to the theater—and I mean hasty, because 3D screens are at a premium and this isn’t going to stick around. Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

39 thoughts on “Drive Angry 3D

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    I second your statement about “the best film of 2011 so far”. It’s also the best use of 3D I’ve seen since AVATAR and ranks up there with my enjoyment factor of seeing the original 1953 HOUSE OF WAX in 3D in the early 1980s.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I’d say it’s the best 3D I’ve seen since Lussier’s My Bloody Valentine 3D, but then I never thought that Avatar‘s 3D was all that special after the opening 20 minutes.

  3. isaac mau

    I can’t believe you are giving this trash a higher star level then one. I thought of you only gave well acted, well written and well directed movies good reviews but this article has proven me wrong entirely. But, obviously you have some taste for mindless American stupidity spewed out of Hollywood’s rear end. This movie ranks high among unoriginal cliché action movies like X-men Origins Wolverine. I have moved away from Asheville a couple months ago but I would always come to see what you say about a movie. Wasn’t that a mistake. You have lost all credibility with me. I guarantee that this horrible excuse for a movie is only going to be liked by dumb a.. hicks and is going to join all the other trash from trailer parks around the south east of America when it comes out on DVD.

  4. luluthebeast

    I agree completely with Ken. This movie is WAY over the top fun, with great 3D effects and no pretense. Fichtner is superb and even Cage shows that he can still act in a few spots. I think the only thing that would have made this better would have been to see Henry Silva show up to chew the scenery for awhile as Satan.

  5. Chip Kaufmann

    Although still living, Henry Silva hasn’t been in a movie since the remake of OCEAN’S ELEVEN in 2001. Speculation runs rampant as to why although I can probably guess why as he’s now 83 years old.

  6. Dionysis

    “…awash in a copious sea of sex, violence, nudity, gore, absurd chases, one-liners, black comedy, supernatural hooey and a pretty complete subversion of good taste.”

    Everything I could possibly want in a movie.

  7. Vroom vroom!

    I think Isaac Mau is ANGRY. Remember folks, there is nothing funny about Road Rage or Nick Cage.
    Love your reviews Ken, always the highlight of my Xpress readings. I can’t wait to see this Monday!

  8. DrSerizawa

    I didn’t know I was just a hick. But I’m cool with that. “Get the blunderbuss out Martha, squirrel and meth for dinner tonite!”

    BTW Isaac. You couldn’t possibly be a regular reader of Ken’s reviews and not be aware of his affinity for exploitation cinema. I call BS.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Love your reviews Ken, always the highlight of my Xpress readings. I can’t wait to see this Monday!

    Thanks. Just remember that it’s got reduced shows this week. And next week? Well, I don’t imagine it’s going to be around.

  10. Ken Hanke

    You couldn’t possibly be a regular reader of Ken’s reviews and not be aware of his affinity for exploitation cinema. I call BS.

    I’m glad Justin and I weren’t the only ones who detected a faint whiff of manure.

  11. brebro

    I too was looking forward to a scathing review of what I assumed this movie would be. To find out it isn’t really taking itself seriously as formulaic genre-tainment is comforting as a potential viewer, but now I won’t get to read what I hoped would be the simple, three word review of: “Watched movie angry.”

  12. Ken Hanke

    When you read this week’s review of Beastly, just know that I proposed only using the first three words of the review. That should warm your cockles.

  13. trex

    Take it easy “isaac mau”

    I loved this movie and I also love ballet, books by Gore Vidal (I am sure I misspelled that) and Christopher Hitchens. The films of Kubrick and Gilliam, etc, etc

    This movie was so much fun and I have a theory why it tanked.

    We now get exploitation so quickly on the internet. If this movie came out 30 or 40 years ago we would be talking about it now and saying how cool it is. (It is) Unfortunately only film buffs still go see this kind of stuff in the theaters. In the past everyone had to go the cinema to see what was raunchy,wild,etc.

    Am I right or wrong? or just pretentious?

  14. Chip Kaufmann

    I think it may have something to do with Mr Cage’s sterling silver screen reputation. I know people who refused to see DA3 simply because he was in it.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Am I right or wrong? or just pretentious?

    I’m not sure being right — and I think you are at least in part — precludes pretension.

    And, by the way, you spelled Gore Vidal right. Bonus points.

  16. Ken Hanke

    I think it may have something to do with Mr Cage’s sterling silver screen reputation.

    That didn’t keep ‘em away from Bad Lieutenant locally. And it didn’t keep the hoi polloi away from Season of the Witch nearly as drastically as this.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the movie buffs who might have enjoyed this misunderstood what the film was.

    I know people who refused to see DA3 simply because he was in it.

    Their loss.

  17. DrSerizawa

    Well, my two worst fears weren’t realized. Number One, they didn’t destroy those old classic Chevies… that always p***es me off no end when they destroy cars that are far more valuable than the movie they wreck it in. Number Two, actress Amber Heard didn’t embarrass herself. When they pick an actress for looks it often doesn’t turn out well, but she was fine for the part IMHO. As far as Cage goes I don’t have any complaints about his performance except for a nitpick that he really isn’t capable of bringing a tone of real serious menace to the screen. Still, it is the best movie so far this year. Too bad it wasn’t marketed properly as a horror movie. At least I has the theater to myself.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Well, my two worst fears weren’t realized. Number One, they didn’t destroy those old classic Chevies… that always p***es me off no end when they destroy cars that are far more valuable than the movie they wreck it in.

    I can’t get worked up over crashing muscle cars, though I cringe every time at the XKE Jag exploding in Casino Royale (1967) and the crumpled Austin Healey 3000 in O Lucky Man!. I have convinced myself that the Austin Healey in The Royal Tennenbaums is merely set up to appear wrecked.

    Too bad it wasn’t marketed properly as a horror movie.

    And I absolutely do not understand that.

  19. When Marc is right, he’s right.

    Nuff said.

    I always get a chuckle when I read comments from people like Mr. Mau. I deal with similar circumstances. I can recommend great movies for people to rent for years. However, if they take one home that they don’t like, then your name is mud from that point on.

    Human behavior I guess.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I always get a chuckle when I read comments from people like Mr. Mau.

    There’s a persistent belief that there was something a little bogus about the idea that a “constant reader” would be unaware of my fondness for good exploitation movies.

    I deal with similar circumstances. I can recommend great movies for people to rent for years. However, if they take one home that they don’t like, then your name is mud from that point on.

    I think I’m probably a little less likely to get that — though it does happen — since they’re rarely person-to-person recommendations. I’m more likely to get it for an AFS or THPS selection than a movie review. And actually, I think I usually get more flack for not liking something than for liking it. I cheesed a lot of folks over 300, for example, and I definitely alienated one reader over Mamma Mia!. I forget how I alienated the poster known as “come on,” but that might have been for saying that Moulin Rouge! was — in my view — the most significantly influential film of the decade.

    Human behavior I guess

    I guess. It’s certainly the path taken by fanboys on Rotten Tomatoes who love to try to render a critic’s opinion invalid by poring over his or her reviews to find a call — pro or con — offering incontrovertible “proof,” e.g., not liking The Dark Knight is a biggie.

  21. I guess. It’s certainly the path taken by fanboys on Rotten Tomatoes who love to try to render a critic’s opinion invalid by poring over his or her reviews to find a call—pro or con—offering incontrovertible “proof,” e.g., not liking The Dark Knight is a biggie

    I wonder how the reaction would have been if DRIVE ANGRY was directed by Fincher or Aronofsky?

  22. Ken Hanke

    I wonder how the reaction would have been if DRIVE ANGRY was directed by Fincher or Aronofsky?

    Meaning no disrespect — at least in Aronofsky’s case — but I see little evidence that either of them has all that much in the way of a sense of humor.

  23. Meaning no disrespect—at least in Aronofsky’s case—but I see little evidence that either of them has all that much in the way of a sense of humor.

    I disagree–REQUIEM FOR A DREAM was damned funny…and it felt rather intentionally so to me.

    But at least DRIVE ANGRY 3D delivered everything it promised, and more. I managed to catch it last night for its final showing here in Vegas, and had a rip-snortin’ hell of a time. Very sad indeed that it flopped at the box office. In addition to poor marketing and an audience-dividing lead, it also has one of the most conspicuously bad choices of titles in recent memory (PAUL being the possible exception). Granted, the title fit the movie, but it’s definitely NOT a title likely to draw in ticket-buyers.

  24. Ken Hanke

    REQUIEM FOR A DREAM was damned funny

    I don’t think I responded to it the way you did!

    Granted, the title fit the movie, but it’s definitely NOT a title likely to draw in ticket-buyers.

    It needed a title that sold its horror film content as I see it. The trailer didn’t play that aspect up either and I think that was a mistake. It is, however, a better title than Paul, I think. Paul, on the other hand, might come through in spite of the title, since it didn’t outright tank.

  25. Jack1516

    This isaac mau joins the popular throngs that hate a certain stereotyped version of white Americans. But yes I can see where some folks will like this movie and others won’t. In my opinion it was a good one-time fun watch, no one was ever trying to bring forth Shakespeare in this movie to begin with.

  26. V.

    It would be quite a useless attempt at ego control for me to suggest that someone is ‘wrong’ for liking Drive Angry. I found the film to be exactly the soulless mental chum I was shark-curious enough to bite into (though somehow easier to swallow than, say, Grindhouse). At any rate, I would still like to see an inversion of the fulfillment of misogynistic expectations in exploitation movies some day. That would be truly daring and subversive thing. Wait a moment…let me pick up this camera here and…

  27. Jeffrey DeCristofaro

    Putting aside all previous comments, did anybody actually get the impression that the title sounds like something that Animal, the explosive band drummer from the Muppets, would say on a daily basis? For that matter, would they be surprised if he personally saw the film?

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