2011, R, 104 min. Directed by Patrick Lussier. Starring Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, Christa Campbell, Charlotte Ross, David Morse, Tom Atkins, Jack McGee.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 4, 2011
Well goddamn, I miss David Carradine and Warren Oates. You will, too, if you buckle up with this retro drive-in also-ran. Cage continues his Tokyo drift into mid-career mediocrity with this decidedly bottom half of a nonexistent double bill that’s guaranteed to play better from the vantage point of the back seat of a ’55 Chevy (or, as here, a ’69 Dodge Charger). Granted, Cage has performed fearlessly before (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) and probably will be again, but in Drive Angry he's strictly coasting on his own past badassery. This is the Cage of Gone in 60 Seconds and Ghost Rider, not the tortured, often venomous phantom from Bringing Out the Dead or Face/Off, and as such he's strictly old hat (and tight denim jacket). And what's with this title? Has anyone ever seen a Nicolas Cage character that doesn't drive angry? Yeesh. This is a supernatural chase film in which Cage's John Milton and (arrgh!) Heard's waitress Piper pursue a satanic cult led by snappy dresser Jonah King (Burke in full Jim Jones-meets-Elvis swagger). There's apparently a baby, Milton's grandchild, at stake but the offspring is purely a device that allows director Lussier to stage some spectacular automotive mayhem and far too many CGI-aided flesh wounds. Satanists fall like Christians at a Watain show, but the most interesting thing about Drive Angry isn't Heard's derriere (although, in fine grindhouse form, it gives us its all), or even Fichtner as His Satanic Majesty's accountant. What's really remarkable is how much of this pricey demolition derby feels ripped from cheaper, better drive-in films of yore, most obviously Jack Starrett's classic Race With the Devil and Robert Fuest's The Devil's Rain. Like the former's tagline warned: "When you race with the devil, you'd better be fast as hell." (And you, angry driver, are not that fast.)