Sometimes it’s good to abandon all pretence of sensibility and just go for balls-to-walls action. Drive Angry 3D aims to do just that, furnishing us with the thinnest of plots, instead concentrating on all-out pandemonium.
After his daughter is killed by Satan-worshippers, Milton (hardy har har) (Nicolas Cage) steals a car and breaks out of Hell to prevent the cult from sacrificing his granddaughter, only to be pursued by the devil’s own accountant (William Fichtner). He’s joined on his travels by Piper (Amber Heard), a tough-talking waitress with nothing to lose.
On paper, what’s not to love? It’s got all the elements of a trashy cult classic: fast cars, gratuitous nudity, wry one-liners, explosions, over the top fight scenes, a protagonist that literally breaks out of Hell, Satan worshippers, a walking stick made from a human femur bone and Nicolas Cage’s continually amusing hair. It has all the ingredients to be a stonking, action-packed and above all fun Friday night movie.
Sadly it fires wide of the mark. The car chases are pedestrian and are no way near fast enough – in fact the film makers could almost be taken to the Advertising Standards Commission for that title – there’s not nearly as much angry driving as you’d expect. The action fails to be anything special and the film lacks a dynamic set-piece. On reflection, it would be much more exciting if they showed how Milton broke out of hell in the first place – it’s only given a brief flashback and a cursory mention, where a spectacular “Milton vs. The Wardens Of Hell” battle would have really lifted the limp material.
Nic Cage is an interesting one. When he’s good, he’s very good (Bad Lieutenant, Adaptation) but far too often he seems like he’s on autopilot – drawling out his lines with little interest or conviction. If Cage had really gone all out nuts (see Harry Hanarahan’s Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit video on Youtube for true insanity) Drive Angry would have been much more entertaining but he’s far too subdued and seems like he’s going through the motions. Granted those motions are shooting dozens of people in the face but it’s so far so humdrum.
Even arguably the film’s best scene – a motel battle where Milton shoots everyone in slow motion while still uh…making love to a woman is a total rip off from the infinitely superior and gleefully ridiculous Shoot ‘Em Up; a scene which reveals the lack of originality which plagues the entire production.
The film’s saving grace is William Fichtner who’s quickly becoming the next generation’s Christopher Walken, spouting lines with dry, emotionless detachment while causing complete carnage. Every time he’s on screen, the whole dynamic changes and the film becomes fun and full of genuine humour but he’s used far too sparingly.
If anything, Drive Angry 3D isn’t ridiculous enough. It might have been filmed in 3D but it’s a curiously flat and uninventive film, despite the promise of its ludicrous subject material.