Drive Angry 3D (2011) Movie Review

Patrick Lussier’s “Drive Angry 3D” (yes, the 3D is very much an official part of the movie’s title) is essentially 90 minutes of driving, crude language, shooting, and stuff blowing up pretty much every 10 minutes or so, give or take. Will you like it? Here’s a question: do you take your New York Times weekend reading seriously? If the answer is Yes, then No, you probably won’t like it. It’s essentially a throwaway movie, one of those “see it with a couple of buddies and forget about it later that same night” type of movies. You definitely will not be discussing the merits of its plot points later on, that much is for damn sure. Having said all that, if you were looking to throw away 90 minutes of your life while wearing plastic, uncomfortable 3D glasses, then “Drive Angry 3D” should more than suffice.

Nicolas Cage stars as Milton, a recent prison escapee who is chasing the cult of one Jonah King (Billy Burke), the man responsible for the murder of Milton’s daughter and the abduction of his baby granddaughter. (Although the truth behind Milton’s “prison escape” has been revealed in various TV spots and trailers for the movie, for the sake of this review, I will keep mum on the details, especially since the film’s script seems to be working under the assumption that this particular plot point is a major revelation and coyly dangles it in front of the audience for much of the movie.) Milton enlists the help of one Piper (Amber Heard), an ex-waitress on his bloody quest, mostly because he wants a lift in her cool blue Charger. He’s also got a strange, apparently supernatural-powered “cop” of sorts called The Accountant (William Fichtner) on his tail.

In his quest to kill King, Milton has armed himself with a cache of weapons, including a handy old timey shotgun called the Godkiller that even the seemingly indestructible Accountant fears. King, you see, has plans to sacrifice Milton’s granddaughter for some nefarious purposes, and he has a small army of willing cultists to lend a hand. It is they that Milton must go through in order to rescue his granddaughter, having failed her mother when she was alive. As you might expect, lots of cars blow up, weapons of various types are discharged, and general mayhem ensue on the open country roads. Soon, every cop in the country is chasing Milton and Piper, but of course, that’s not really going to slow them or King down any. To say that “Drive Angry 3D” doesn’t really adhere to real-world logic would be like saying that Paris Hilton is completely and utterly devoid of any actual, measurable talent beyond fame whoring.

If you’re one of those people who love seeing things like blown up car parts and CG bullets fly at you out of the screen at regular intervals, then director Patrick Lussier (“My Bloody Valentine”) has you covered. Originally shot in 3D, the film certainly lends itself well to the gimmick, though honestly, being forced to wear uncomfortable plastic glasses for 90 minutes still does not quite justify swooshing metal debris in third dimension. The film really is one big non-stop action sequence, and the crew certainly made the most of their explosions budget. I haven’t seen so many things blow up since, well, the last time I saw a Michael Bay film. So if you love 3D, and you love stuff blowing up good, then “Drive Angry 3D” will have you swimming in bliss.

I won’t waste your time by analyzing the film’s storyline or, God forbid, delve into the plot. Even the title already implies that this part of my job is superfluous. I will just say that Nicolas Cage is Nicolas Cage, and his Milton is a role the actor could play 10 times in one year with one hand tied behind his back and loaded up with a bottle or two of Nyquil. Which is to say, it ain’t exactly hard being Nicolas Cage, and this is as Nicolas Cage-y a role as you’re going to get. Milton’s best moments involve him casually trading barbs with the persistent Accountant. William Fichtner steals the show as the manhunter, and you’ll probably end up loving this guy despite the fact that he’s trying to stop the hero from saving his granddaughter. It’s too hard not to appreciate Fichtner’s vast talents, or the Accountant’s easygoing, “just out for a Sunday stroll” approach to his job.

Amber Heard fares surprisingly well as the physical, tough talking, ass kicking, cusses-like-a-sailor Piper. Give Lussier and screenwriter Todd Farmer credit, they don’t exactly go easy on the gal. Piper takes just as much punishment as she dishes out, if not more so. You might even squirm a time or two at the sheer amount of violence our little darling is subjected to. Mind you, not that you should ever be afraid Piper would be in any danger. Despite getting the tar kicked and punched out of her pretty much throughout the movie, Amber Heard always comes through looking, well, spectacularly hot and for the most part, bruise-free. There is zero chemistry between her and Cage, but that’s not much of a surprise. I have not seen a movie yet in the last ten years or so where Nicolas Cage actually has any chemistry with his leading ladies.

The film’s villain is Billy Burke, a smooth-talking, Southern cult leader who is, well, smooth talking and Southern. Burke is appropriately slimy and bad, but is otherwise unspectacular. David Morse shows up briefly as an old acquaintance of Milton who just happens to have a couple of American classic muscle cars at his disposal. Actress Charlotte Ross has an interesting cameo as Candy, a waitress who spends a night with Milton and ends up in the middle of a gun battle. I guess this is only “interesting” in that I used to watch her on “NYPD Blue” and always thought she would go places. Apparently, not so much. It feels like she’s slumming here, especially given the revealing nudity that’s required of her for the scene. It’s the kind of role that you would normally hire, say, a porn star or stripper looking to go mainstream for, but definitely not someone who used to be a regular on a serious crime show like “NYPD Blue”.

So what else is there to say about “Drive Angry 3D”? I will readily admit that the 3D is well done, and I think I have made it clear just how much I hate this tiresome trend. Amber Heard and William Fichtner steal the show whenever they’re onscreen, and Nicolas Cage is, well, Nicolas Cage. Hey, at least he’s not mumbling his way through some silly Crusades, so there’s that. Credit goes to Lussier for orchestrating a ballsy, entirely offensive non-stop action movie that delivers on the action, offenses, and thrills, if not much else. The CG is also pretty iffy at times, though in a movie where guys can get shot in the eye and survive, I suppose that’s being a bit picky.

Patrick Lussier (director) / Todd Farmer, Patrick Lussier (screenplay)
CAST: Nicolas Cage … Milton
Amber Heard … Piper
William Fichtner … The Accountant
Billy Burke … Jonah King
David Morse … Webster
Todd Farmer … Frank
Christa Campbell … Mona
Charlotte Ross … Candy

Buy Drive Angry on DVD