Drive Angry (2011)
★ / ★★★★
Milton (Nicolas Cage) breaks out of Hell to return to the land of the living in order to rescue his granddaughter, an infant, from being sacrificed by a religious cult leader, Jonah King (Billy Burke), the very same man who murdered Milton’s daughter because she wanted to resign from the cult. While sipping black coffee at a diner, Milton takes notice of a kind but tough waitress, Piper (Amber Heard). He asks her to give him a ride and she decides to help. Before she knew it, she is an integral part of Milton’s mission to hunt down the zealots. Meanwhile, The Accountant (William Fichtner), Satan’s right-hand man, is assigned to bring the escapee back to where he belongs.
Written by Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier, “Drive Angry” is not without ambition but it is so sloppily put together, there is barely a glimpse of a story we can invest in. Its many attempts to exude excitement comes in a form as basic as shooting and blowing things up.
Milton is supposed to be a grandfather on a bloody rampage and will do absolutely anything to save the baby. His mission might not have been so unbelievable if he isn’t so easily distracted, especially by the opposite sex. For someone who has literally escaped Hell, his weakness is women? Really? When a blonde waitress at a bar makes passes at him, the very next scene shows them having sex. As Jonah’s henchmen come barging in like wild animals, Milton grabs his gun with one hand and uses the other to keep the woman attached to him until all the assailants are dead and bloody.
But it does not stop there. The whole thing is shown in painful slow motion. Since we can see where the attackers are located prior to raising their weapons, tension is sucked out of the scene. It looks pretty, I suppose, but only for about five seconds. It glorifies violence by making it look like an elegant dance. As many of us should know, violence is anything but.
It leaves a confusing message. The woman releases moans of pleasure during the shootout yet she is left traumatized after the fact. If the writers had managed to put the same amount of thought in the implications as much as the visuals, they might have had a film worth cooking and it might not have been insulting. Other scenes run similar to this, only increasingly less interesting due to diminishing returns.
And then there is the question involving Milton’s state of being human. Yes, he is unable to die, but what is so special about him that he is one of the very few to have escaped from the land of the dead? Not enough backstory is given to us and Cage’s somewhat relaxed–some might say narcotic–performance does not help. Following Milton on his journey is like watching a robot doing the same tricks over and over again. For someone who has broken out of Hell, he sure does get boring fast.
“Drive Angry,” directed by Patrick Lussier,” tries to be cheeky in order to have variations in tone between action sequences, but it fails to work because every event feels contrived. Instead, it comes off so desperate, it forces some characters to actually wink at the audiences before doing something naughty, like they need our approval.