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Movie Review: Drive Angry 3D | by J.P. Langston

03/01/11 | by JP | Categories: Films

It's a Grind House film for the 3D age. Nicolas Cage stars in "Drive Angry 3D."

Follow up:

DRIVE ANGRY 3D
Summit Entertainment
STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, AMBER HEARD, WILLIAM FICHTNER, BILLY BURKE
WRITTEN BY: TODD FARMER & PATRICK LUSSIER
DIRECTED BY: PATRICK LUSSIER

Studio Synopsis:
In the newest 3D action-adventure from the director of MY BLOODY VALENTINE, DRIVE ANGRY stars Nicolas Cage as Milton, a hardened felon who has broken out of hell for one last chance at redemption. Intent on stopping a vicious cult who murdered his daughter, he has three days to stop them before they sacrifice her baby beneath a full moon.

He's joined by Piper (Amber Heard) - a young, sexy waitress who liberates her ex-boyfriend's cherry-red muscle car in order to help Milton. Now, the two of them are hot on the trail of the deadly leader of the cult, Jonah King (Billy Burke), who believes it is his destiny to use the baby to unleash hell on earth.

But the bloodthirsty cult is the least of Milton's problems. The police are after him too. And worse, an enigmatic killer known only as "The Accountant" - who has been sent by the Devil to retrieve Milton and deliver him back to hell. With wicked cunning and hypnotic savagery, the Accountant will relentlessly pursue Milton at high speed across the country until his mission is accomplished.

Fueled by high octane and pure rage, Milton must use his anger to go beyond all human limits to avenge his daughter's murder, before his last chance at redemption is revoked.


WILLIAM FICHTNER stars in DRIVE ANGRY.
Photo by: Ron Batzdorf
© 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved

J.P.'s Take:
Grind House movies of the late 60’s and 70’s are infamous for the hard R-rating with gritty, bloody, ultra violent, and sexually explicit scenarios. The modern day B-movie “Drive Angry” is no exception, and it stays true to the style of the genre with a 3D twist.

Nicolas Cage stars as John Milton, a petty crook that at one time resided in Hell. Milton learns about the kidnapping of his granddaughter and escapes from the clutches of Satan to find out who did it and why. Upon further investigation, he also learns that the leader of a satanic cult, Jonah King (Billy Burke), murdered his daughter. Her death was a result of a ritual performed by King and his slaves for the sacrifice of Milton’s granddaughter to bring about the apocalypse. The ceremony takes place during a full moon, which will also solidify Jonah’s position as the anti-Christ. Milton wants to redeem himself by avenging the death of his daughter and capture of his granddaughter by destroying the perpetrators for good. Of course! And believe me he’s hell bent on doing so. That is until the Devil sends his personal security guard, simply named the Accountant (William Fichtner), to apprehend Milton and return him to his rightful place.

I consider myself a pretty big fan of the B-movie genre; one of my favorite films being the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino excursion, aptly titled "Grindhouse." In my opinion, their 3-hour double feature pays homage and, at the same time, spoofs the exploitation genre. Had it not been placed in the capable hands of the two skilled filmmakers that feat would have been somewhat difficult to accomplish. I felt Rodriquez/Tarantino understood the genre better and therefore took creative liberties with their movie. My examples are some of the gory scenes, where they took it to the extent, to not only disgust its intended audience, but to shock them in ways they didn’t expect. Also, the actors in that film portrayed their characters in exaggerated ways ~ adding mellow drama to scenes that didn’t require them to. In addition, I liked the energy they exerted at every moment as they gave wild performances on screen. Plain and simple -- I though it was fun to watch. After experiencing and appreciating a film like "Grindhouse," I felt “Drive Angry” wasn’t quite up to speed with the Rodriquez/Tarantino outing. Where this movie falls short for me is the violence, which could have been, lets say, even more bone crunching. Additionally, the gore could have been bloodier and explosions could have been bigger. They could have made someone’s head melt, and I wanted them to do something to justify the visuals; further than the norm in other words. There wasn't enough over the top moments to make me say, "Wow! That was sick!"

However, even though I felt it was “Grindhouse”-lite, "DA" is a worthy addition to the genre. The film is definitely best to be experienced solely on the big screen because it’s shot in 3D. I liked the fact that it’s a little more interactive than the average film. In scenes where things are being blown up and body parts flying around, I kept ducking and dodging each time something was jettisoned from the screen. Honestly that element definitely adds to the viewer’s fun factor. There is one thing I discovered about movies that are shot in full 3D versus those that are applied in the post production process: objects are a little more jarring to watch in 3D, which caused my eyes to cross, where as movies with the 3D effect added afterwards had more depth and enhanced my viewing pleasure without the distraction.

Another good reason to check out this demonic tale is the unique twist on a father’s revenge story. Writers Patrick Lussier with Todd Farmer (“My Bloody Valentine 3D”) have constructed a plot with a supernatural backbone, without it “DA” would have been a pretty dull story. I think the story of a vengeful father escaping from hell is much more appealing than a vengeful father returning home from prison to find his daughter’s killers.

Sidewalks Entertainment producer/host Richard R Lee and I, who I saw the advance screening with, couldn’t help but to poke fun at Cage for some moments that reminded us about another film he previously did: a film which involved fire, motorcycles, brimstone and skulls. In one of the scenes, his spunky sidekick Piper (the very lovely Amber Heard) wraps Milton’s shot out eye with a bandanna with skulls sprinted on it. We thought to ourselves, “Yep, this is “Ghost Rider.” In a way, this film could have been a direct sequel for “Ghost.”

Performances from the first-rate cast were just what you’d expect from an over the top action flick. Cage excels at over acting in movies like this; he even gets some cheesy lines. In the first half of the movie, Milton chases down some thugs in a muscle car. After wreaking their car, Milton wants to know about his daughter. The thug responds and gives him an answer for which Milton’s response is, “Tell him...I’m coming.” Yeah it’s corny, but it works in this case.


AMBER HEARD stars in DRIVE ANGRY.
Photo Credit: Ron Batzdorf
© 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved

The other characters like Heard’s, who plays a waitress, is not just there for the eye candy. Lee thought Piper can kick butt ~ pretty similar to a Sarah Connor-type of “The Terminator” movies (Sarah would be proud of Piper). Heard combines both looks and a nice amount of grittiness to her character. I loved her fighting spirit, which is basically the kind of attitude that says don’t piss me off or hell have no fury. I thought Fichtner played the perfect devil’s advocate. He provided an understated coolness, with his sarcastic tone and straight forward, church deacon looks. He played the role with great comedic timing. Also, Burke’s portrayal of Jonah reminded me of Elvis in some way.

Sadly, as this review is coming out following its opening weekend opening, “Drive Angry” did poorly at the box office with a ninth place opening and a take of around $5 million in sales. So, if you want to see it on the big screen and in 3D, get to your theaters now before it’s too late.

Overall, I took “Drive Angry” at face value, as it earned a C+ from me. Again, it’s no “Grindhouse,” but I believe it can hold its own amongst similar movies of its kind.

_________________________________________________________________

J.P. Langston is a member of "Sidewalks Entertainment" team primarily as a videographer. He loves movies, especially sci-fi horror and action comedies. Some of his favorite films include "Blade Runner" "The Matrix Trilogy," The (original) "Star Wars," "Equilibrium," "Serenity," "Kill Bill Vols 1 and 2," "Appleseed," "Unbreakable" and "Sin City." He has a large DVD collection, which is still growing. Since reviewing films for "Sidewalks," he has been expanding his palette for all types of films.

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