Drive Angry, Nicolas Cage
Ragin’, agin’ star is on a mission from HellRagin’, agin’ Nicolas Cage is on a mission from Hell
For a certain generation, the cover of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album was an icon of just plain badassery, depicting a barrel-chested barbarian erupting full-throttle out of a grave on his hybrid motorcycle steed, body arched back in thinly veiled orgasm. The cover was a triumph of kinetic kitsch big enough to get airbrushed on the side of more than a few Chevy vans.
It’s easy to imagine that a couple of stoned teenagers of that era might have been inspired by the album cover to write the screenplay for something like Drive Angry 3-D.
Here we have John Milton (Nic Cage in stoic mode) roaring out of the underworld in his pitch-black ’64 Buick Riviera, hellbent (for want of a better word) on retrieving his granddaughter from a pack of Satanists set on sacrifice. Everyone has a hobby, but most don’t go as far as wanting to plunge a dagger in an infant in order to unleash literal Hell on Earth. So yeah, Milton has to drive real fast.
In his predamnation life, Milton must have been both kicking ass and getting it on in extreme ways. The grumpy grandpa handles a motel room invaded by a pack of cultists while barebacking a waitress without missing a beat—a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a .45 delivering rounds with unnerving accuracy in the other. You can just imagine a couple of 13-year-olds cackling in skewed satisfaction as they wrote that scene.
The problem with Drive Angry 3-D is that it’s a 3-D movie that plays oddly flat. It wants to be the next Crank, but lacks the chops needed to pull off 2-D characters the audience can empathize with. It’s desperately trying to be a player in the neo-grindhouse subgenre (or “dick flick” or “action porn,” whatever you want to call it)—spawned by Quentin Tarantino and cultivated by the likes of Robert Rodriguez—a return to the scratchy, splicey drive-in flicks of the ’70s, polished with blood and CGI mayhem to a 21st-century gloss. Other examples of this kind of beast are Machete and Punisher: War Zone, cartoon-like productions that are all about unapologetic excess, spattered with boobs, blood and bullets.
Drive Angry 3-D delivers with all of that, but lacks the maturity (again, for want of a better word) to pull off the giddy nihilism that’s needed to make this kind of film successful. But as a 3-D movie with copious amounts of blood, boobs and vehicular mayhem, it’s close enough for rock ’n’ roll. Or, much as with the tune playing as the end credits roll, close enough for a wannabe to approximate Meat Loaf while failing to capture the distinct voice or operatic kitsch.