There’s a thin line between clever and stupid, and Nicolas Cage seems to have devoted his recent career to walking it.
Drive Angry, this month’s Cage craptacular, is exuberant garbage, slyly aware of its own trashiness without ever quite tipping into camp. Cage strains to keep a straight face as John Milton, a black-denim clad monosyllabic badass who breaks out of hell to rescue his baby granddaughter from a satanic cult. Believe it or not, the movie gets more ridiculous as it goes along.
Back from the dead and out for vengeance, Cage’s Milton befriends a tough-talking diner waitress (the lovely Amber Heard) and hits the road in a vintage Dodge Charger with a fleet of disposable, drooling rednecks on his trail. Also following is William Fitchner, a supernatural bounty hunter who calls himself “The Accountant,” and demonstrates a hilarious disregard for human life, officiously mutilating any poor shmuck who strays into his path. (I loved Fitchner’s droll quips, particularly when he’s explaining that Lucifer is “extremely well-read.”)
Directed by Patrick Lussier, who helmed 2008’s equally low-rent 3-D opus My Bloody Valentine, Drive Angry exploits the extra dimension for splattery severed body parts and the jiggling female form. Much like Pirahna 3-D, the movie makes a strong case that this new technology might best be suited for gimmicky shlock. Hey, look: 3-D boobs!
But as in My Bloody Valentine, Lussier and co-writer Todd Farmer shoot their wads early and eventually wear out their welcome. They can’t quite figure out how to top an early sequence in which Cage gets into a massive shoot-out, while simultaneously smoking a cigar, drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels and having sex. (Say what you will, but the dude really knows how to multitask.) All the muscle cars, half-naked women and gratuitous mayhem become a bit wearying by the final reel. Something like this should ideally be closer to 80 minutes than 104.
Yet through it all, Cage has a twinkle in his eye. Has any formerly prestigious Oscar winner ever seemed so delighted to wallow in the genre gutter? Just watch him try not to crack up while drinking beer out of his enemy’s skull.