The Crow meets Ghost Rider in Drive Angry, a supernatural movie that places Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider) in the role of Milton; a deceased man who’s so fed up of seeing an evil cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke, Twilight) et away with doing whatever he wants, that he breaks out of hell to go on a cross country road-trip, and give him what-for.
But for Milton this isn’t just any post-mortem road trip to kill a cult leader, it’s personal; and has been since Jonah not only brainwashed his daughter and eventually murdered her, but kidnapped her daughter (Milton’s granddaughter), with the intention of sacrificing her at the next full moon; giving Milton a real incentive, and only a short timespan, to kill Jonah once and for all.
Along the way his quest is made both easier and more difficult by the interference of outside forces; as he’s escaped from hell he’s left Satan unsurprisingly miffed, and has Satan’s right-hand-man ‘The Accountant’ (William Fichtner, The Dark Knight) attempting to hunt him down and bring him back, but also has the help of a human girl named Piper (Amber Heard, The Stepfather) who gives him not only a “sweet ride” (in the form of a 1969 Dodge Charger), but also a companion to share the journey that’s not as perilous as it first appears (seen as how, already being dead, Milton is un-killable).
As far-fetched stories go, Drive Angry is pretty out-there, but it’s a film that isn’t designed to be realistic, entirely believable, or anything but solid fun; a daft romp across the US, with muscle cars, guns, and a hot blonde; which it easily achieves thanks to the plentiful action sequences (despite lacking any real tension; as we always known Milton is going to be fine; the direction and spectacle prove to be both captivating, and uncontrollably smile-inducing), dark humour (which generates a fair few laughs), and OTT style (which harkens back to the classic ‘70s road movies, and suits the film perfectly).
Despite having a huge amount of talent, Nicolas Cage’s acting career contains more than its fair share of foul-ups and miss-hits, but despite Milton being far from his best role, he remains easily watchable, powerful, and delivers everything the character asks of him with ease, creating an easily watchable hero who would have easily been the stand-out of the film, had it not been for the stirring performance offered by the intense, captivating, and brilliant, William Fichtner (who’s turn as The Accountant is fantastic, and truly demands to be watched).
The supporting cast also fairs well, as Billy Burke seems to revel in his latest bad guy persona (and looks far more at ease here than in his Twilight role), David Morse (The Green Mile) isn’t given too much to play with, but is always a welcome addition to a movie, and Amber Heard; while not renowned for her acting ability; manages to strut around in a pair of tiny hot pants, with her slender frame and golden locks, like the best of them; driving a muscle car, getting into fights, and shooting large guns only making her more appealing to her male fans.
Sure the plot is ridiculous, has barely enough flesh on it to stretch to Drive Angry’s hour-and-a-half runtime, and doesn’t really offer anything we haven’t seen before (even the scene where Milton kills a room full of rampaging thugs with a bottle of whiskey in one hand, a gun in the other, and a good-time-girl on the end of his *ahem*, is reminiscent of the one from Shoot Em’ Up), but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun; there are countless things wrong with the movie, and sure it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights attained by the likes of Machete, or other efforts by Rodriguez or Tarantino, but Drive Angry is what it is; it’s B-movie trash, and proud of it; it’s a black comedy with plenty of laughs, some solid action, cool cars, big guns, and a hot blonde in hot pants; what more could any self-respecting ‘70s B-movie lover ask for (especially given the solid cast, and fact that the hot blonde is also a real-life lesbian)?
Drive Angry is a film that really was designed to be seen in 3D (mostly for the few gimmicky effects that make the experience about 6.5% more fun, and not simply because it’s really needed), but those people seeing the film on DVD won’t be disappointed; as Milton and all the carnage he brings with him come to DVD with a stellar transfer that sports superb fine detail, excellent clarity and textures (obviously not up to Blu-ray standard, but excellent for an SD release), solid black levels, natural colours (aside from the slightly warm; though not in the least bit distracting; fleshtones), little print noise, and no noteworth scratches, errors, or blemishes to speak of; making for a transfer that’s sure to please any fan of the film, despite the odd soft shot, and a few touches of ghosting.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track awarded to the Drive Angry DVD release blasts your living room with all the noise and bravado you would expect from a film of this nature; sporting powerful bass, great effects and surround usage in the action heavy scenes, coupled with solid music reproduction, crisp, clear, and well prioritized dialogue, and a number of suitably effective pans and directional effects; ambience is a little lacking in the non-action scenes, but overall this is a solid mix that should entertain, and engulf, any action fan.
Also scoring fairly highly are the selection of special features awarded to the Drive Angry DVD; which include an audio commentary (which despite director Patrick Lussier suffering from laryngitis, is interesting, informative, and packed with both anecdotes and production information, but remains only one for real fans), a couple of average and skippable deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a featurette comprising solely of Milton’s action sequences, and one titled How to Drive Angry (a well-made making of featurette that’s easy for both hardcore fans and casual viewers to watch); a selection that can be skipped by the majority of casual viewers, but gives fans a good deal more of what they like.
The Bottom Line:
If you’ve seen the trailers and thought Drive Angry looked stupid, then it’s clearly not the film for you, but if you saw the trailers and thought Drive Angry looks stupid, but like it could be a lot of fun, this is definitely the film for you; it’s fast, it’s loud, it follows an unkillable man who escapes from Hell to kill a cult leader, and decides the best way to do it is drive across America with a blonde in tiny shorts; it’s a film that revels in its cheesy-ness, loves the fact that so many people will loathe it, but remains uncompromising, and downright bloated throughout, making it both stupid, but one hell of a fun film at the same time.
As far as the DVD specs go, the picture, audio, and extras, are all pretty solid; they’re not likely to completely blow you away; but no fan will be disappointed or disheartened by watching Drive Angry on DVD. However, if at all possible, this is clearly a film that demands to be watched in 3D; the effects look so much better that way, and while the use of 3D is blatantly gimmick based here, dodging shells, baseball bats, coins, and other projectiles just makes the experience that much more fun.
Drive Angry’s got its problems, and there’s no denying them; the story (or what there is of one) is extremely weak, practically every aspect of the film has been ripped off from another like-minded movie, and plenty of other films have done it not only already, but better. If you haven’t seen Machete, then that’s the one to buy, but if you’re looking for another piece of B-movie bullshit, with terrible dialogue, a laugh-out-loud OTT attitude, and a good dose of action, fast cars, and hot women, Drive Angry is the way to go (preferably in 3D).