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RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
• Commentary by Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer
• Deleted Scenes
• Access: Drive Angry
• 2D Blu Ray included
A dangerous man breaks out of a dangerous place to hunt down the dangerous man that killed his daughter and stole her baby. He is pursued by another dangerous man and assisted by a dangerous woman.
Nicolas “Fucking” Cage, William “Fucking” Fichtner, Amber Heard, Billy Burke, Tom “Fucking” Atkins
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a first at CHUD – a BLU RAY 3D REVIEW. If the studios hop on board, it’ll be the first of many. I’m in posession of the tech, and I’d love to answer any questions you have about how this stuff works at home (hint: much better than in theaters rife with neglectful employees). So lets talk on the message boards!
The “Throwback Genre Film” has almost become a genre in itself. Sometimes they grab at nostalgia, sometimes they try for “edgy” – but be it a retro-slasher, an 80s-style post-apocalyptic thriller, or a Romero-tinted zombie flick, there have been a spate of films playing in the old school Little Tykes turtle-shaped sandbox over the last few years. These films may not play nice with general audiences, but they’re catnip for a certain kind of film fan. When they work – like the Grindhouse features, The Devil’s Rejects, or Doomsday – they really work.
Drive Angry…really fucking works.
Drive Angry is the tale of John Milton (reference!), a murderous loser who discovers that a Satanic cult of killers led by Jonah King (an outstanding Billy Burke, all Jim Morrison meets Jim Jones) have killed his daughter and abducted her child for use in a ritual that will open the gates of Hell. This twisted turn of events forces Milton to hunt down the cult with the help of Piper (Amber Heard) a – shall we say…“plucky” – greasy spoon waitress he meets along the way. Once the cult realizes that Cage wants his granddaughter back, they abandon their sinister plan – allowing Cage to life out the rest of his life looking after the bebbegirl.
Or not. Turns out violence – gleeful, over-the-top violence – ensues.
Nic Cage. There are those among us who say he’s lost his marbles. I truly believe that, not only is he in full possession of his faculties – he might just be at the most magic place of his career. Whether the movies he winds up in work out or not, you can be certain that the odd and amazing sensibilities that attracted him to the projects will surface one way or another.
In a supernatural thriller/horror/action/comedy hybrid like Drive Angry, it might be surprising to discover that Cage plays it pretty straight (well…for Cage), but the rest of the movie is filled with such utter lunacy that he understands that he doesn’t have to swing for the fences. It may not be a performance people describe as “fearless” – but it was fearless of him to sign on for a film so wonderfully cracked.
And it’s a testament to the quality of Drive Angry that the project could attract such a fantastic supporting cast: William Fichtner is a wondrous walking contradiction in this film – all at once charming, twitchy, and menacing. Jack McGee – late of The Fighter – absolutely shovels salt in his few scenes. The beloved Tom Atkins returns to the screen to teach you the proper pronunciation of “tires.” And David Morse stops by to give the film a surprisingly graceful note of mournful regret in the late goings.
But in many ways, this film belongs to Amber Heard.
Previously considered by many – myself included – to be not much more than a (ridiculously) pretty face, Heard does some real heavy lifting in her portrayal of one of recent cinema’s weirder humans. Unlike many female heroines, Heard’s Piper isn’t an ordinary girl forced to find her inner touch-chick in a moment of truth, or after some heinous act – she’s been a nut-punting little hardass since she was six, and she’s been hoping to find a situation where that might prove to be an asset instead of the liability it’s been all her life. Prior to this film, I’d have no reason to believe Heard could pull off this sort of mean – but not only does she do it effortlessly, she is able to convey an inner softness that is as winning to an audience as it is to Cage’s character. In Piper, Milton finds a surrogate for the daughter he lost. Through Milton, Piper finds a reason to throw the punches she’s been throwing – which, to me is an incredibly refreshing touch in a film of this type. At no point do these characters wanna’ fuck.
Well, at no point do these characters wanna’ fuck each other. Milton’s libido leads to one of the film’s crazier sequences; the execution of which puts similar scenes (like the one in Fannerd favorite Shoot ‘Em Up) to absolute shame.
The success of the sequence – and indeed, the film’s whiplash tonal shifts and general batshittedness – is owed to the intuition of director Patrick Lussier. While he understands that a film like Drive Angry lives for it gags, he refuses to see the story and emotional beats as nothing more than a creaky frame on which to hang them. In the same way he managed to inject his previous film (the 3D remake of My Bloody Valentine) with an authentic whodunit mystery, and imbue it with a surprising sense of realistic human failings, Lussier manages to gift this film with stings of longing and regret. Despite the B-movie trappings, there is a pummeled heart beating here.
For all the brutality and bravado, Lussier and his co-conspirator Todd Farmer (the genius behind the screenplay for Jason X – which is, if we’re being honest with ourselves, one of the only worthwhile installments in the unkillable Friday the 13th saga) are a couple of softies, and it’s that sort of Samurai spirit that makes Drive Angry a true victory.
If you’re looking for a raucous, obnoxious, excessive way to kill a couple hours with friends – you’ll have that with this film. But if you’re looking do dig a little deeper – Drive Angry is prepared to reward you for it.
There has been much ink spilled of late regarding the quality of 3D projection…the supposed dim nature of the image…the alleged blurriness…the claims of headache and nausea…
Frankly, this has little to do with the tech, and everything to do with how the skunk apes at your theater choose to utilize it. They don’t use proper bulbs? Shit image. They don’t align the lens assembly? Shit image. They recycle glasses until the plastic lenses are warped from the cleaning process like the ones at the Showplace 16 IMAX in Portage, Indiana? Take a guess.
The 3D Blu Ray of Drive Angry does not attempt to replicate a theatrical screening. Quite frankly, it kicks the stinking, runny feces out of all four of the theatrical screenings (yeah – told you I loved the flick) I attended.
I viewed this disc on two Panasonic VIERA Series 3D screens (a 42” GT series model, and a 50” ST series monitor), and I can tell you that anything you see as an issue with theatrical 3D presentation is obliterated in the home. There’s no flicker. There’s no double image from poor calibration, and the picture is only as dim as you want it to be, since you can control the brightness of the image without losing the black values on these screens. With the Panasonic sets, you can curl up on the couch, plop down on the floor, or lay your head on your wee pillow and view a crisp, bright 3D image from anywhere in the room, and at any angle.
The standard Blu Ray also comes in this set, and it’s where you’ll find all of the special features. The Patrick Lussier/Todd Farmer commentary reminded me of the awesome John Carpenter/Kurt Russell tracks of old, where the guys shoot at each other, laugh with one another, and seem genuinely interested in imparting info in a friendly fashion. It’s often anecdotal, sometimes technical, and always charming.
Access: Drive Angry works like the WB Maximum Movie Mode – but with 100% less Zack Snyder or Kevin Smith, so – bonus. Windows open up to share behind-the-scenes footage set to commentary…talking head and on-set interviews are utilized…a “pop-up” text trivia track shares info…and “Milton’s Mayhem” tracks Cage’s kills in the film – awarding him points for particularly inventive or brutal acts of violence. There’s a HUD menu that allows you to control just how much of this info you’re hit with all at once, so you’re never overwhelmed unless you want to be.
There are two very short deleted scenes, and one of them is a scene extension. In the feature commentary, the filmmaker’s explain that they shot the script, and there was simply nothing to cut out.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars