I know it's not the most popular opinion out in the world of film right now, but Drive Angry is a work of art. Pure pulp, 70's style exploitative Grindhouse art. In fact, the only thing that could make this film more born of the 70's midnight movies is if Nicolas Cage were played by a Van Peeble and had the word "sucka" in his catch phrase. But, as it stands in 2011, simply being named Milton and having the balls to literally drive out of hell with stolen goods is enough. Milton is a violent criminal serving time in Hell for his bad, bad deeds. He witness his daughter get raped and murdered on Earth, and sees his baby granddaughter get stolen for a ritual sacrifice by the people who murdered his little girl. Naturally, like a bat out of... he takes the fastest car he can, steals the most powerful gun known to any world, and takes the trash out.
Let me reiterate this - a man escapes from Hell, hunting a satanic cult who is about to sacrifice his granddaughter, and to top it off? He himself is being hunted by Satan's right hand man, known only as The Accountant. And he picks up a hot blonde hitchhiker. And - though this may be a spoiler alert - he has a gunfight with about ten people, while having sex. If this movie got any cooler, my face would have fallen off.
Note - is this the coolest movie I've seen in a long, long time? Absolutely. But, can I classify it as a thought-provoking piece of art and still sleep at the end of the day? You bet your ass. Movies like this represent one thing in Hollywood - change. If they represent anything else, it's that people can still pay respect to their elders, and more than nod a head at what came before. This is a complete genre piece, but in a distinct way. It's a tale of fatherly protection, it's a tale of redemption, it's a road movie, it's an occult piece, it's a shooter, it's a thriller, it's a tale of friendship... it has just about everything I can think of. Strong dramatic scenes, hilarious moments, and pitch perfect performances from everyone involved.
Nicolas Cage is Milton, the escapee from Hell with an ax to grind. Amber Heard is the hitchhiker. The formidable William Fichtner is The Accountant, and Billy Burke is the leader of the cult who has Cage's baby granddaughter. From all four principle cast members, we're treated to a wide array of talent. Cage's Milton is at once calm, collected, and fierce, all while being over-the-top in that special Cage way. Billy Burke's cult master is as slimy as they make them. Amber Heard's blonde bombshell is sexy, smart, and sophisticated. William Fichtner's Accountant is... perfect. This is a role I'm going to remember come Oscar time next year, if only for the tilt that Fichtner displays; he marks his territory with eagerness and agility of emotion, though displaying a steely cold look throughout. He stands out brightly among an already shining cast.
True, this film will be considered offensive and unnecessary by most who are aware of its existence. But, if watched with the notion that this is a love letter to the 1970's Grindhouse movement, and also a major step forward in the neo-Grindhouse movement that has slowly been creeping up since 2006, an education can be given. Drive Angry is a perfect representation of what the glory days of grunge cinema were, what grunge cinema is now, and what it will be in the future. Bold, hypnotic, transgressive, aggressive, angry (!), and hell of a ride.
Patrick Lussier's last film was the revamp of the old slasher My Bloody Valentine. His mark on the 3D format has been cemented. This is one of the few attempts at the platform that I can deem valuable in the world of film. The colours are bright, and the images aren't dim. I didn't get the headache that I normally do. And, also of Lussier's particular contention, his special brand of dark humor is more than ever-present. In fact, it's the back bone of the entire film. I look forward to whatever world he drops me into next.