Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry sticks so close to its desire and gameplan to be a reincarnation of all that was right with 1970’s exploitation films that it is almost too absurd.
Nicolas Cage plays Milton, a dead man who has escaped from hell in the hopes of tracking down the satanic cult that is planning to sacrifice his granddaughter to the god below.
This film has everything a grindhouse picture needs: over-the-top violence, nutty dialogue, hot chicks, fast cars and a satanic cult. Those are like five of the most common items on my exploitation and grindhouse film checklist and Drive Angry certainly has them. Throw in Cage’s classic badass performance as Milton and what we have here is another successful modern attempt at calling on a genre that’s often so bad it’s good.
But Drive Angry is actually good. I mean…in the weirdest sense of that word. It explodes with action and is literally rated R for “strong brutal violence throughout.” I’ll take it. But Lussier and Todd Farmer’s story hits every necessary button it needs to. It stays devoted to what it wants to be, never straying from its strategy for a minute, and because of that remains an honest and passionate project.
Cage’s performances as the madman who has escaped hell is another for the ages. Cage Rage is on full display and with the beautiful Amber Heard at his side, he’s never looked better. He will do nothing to complete his mission and nothing will stop him. He’s on a path of destruction to track down a cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke) who has kidnapped his dead daughter’s child. King is a dopey cult leader, a charade of wisdom and power. I am more of a fan of the cults in exploitation films like Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except and I Drink Your Blood, where it’s clearly just crazed hippies taking acid and worshiping Satan with blood rituals and the like. Jonah King is too fake and refined, which kind of adds to the luster of Milton chasing his annoying and pompous ass down.
The sterling gem of Farmer and Lussier’s screenplay is William Fichtner’s character The Accountant. I won’t give too much away about him, his purpose and his abilities, but Fichtner plays the character so well that he’s one of the worst evil men you’ll learn to like. He gives the film a second chase aspect and another thing to think about. But Fichtner’s performance is what really shines. It’s funny, smart and full of charisma.
Drive Angry is just about the most evil film you’ll watch from 2011. It sticks to its roots, stays true to its desires and is a modern exploitation and grindhouse classic. Those who don’t like Nicolas Cage need not apply.