REVIEW: Drive Angry 3-D Is Disreputable Fun, Until 3-D Fatigue Sets In
Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer's exploitation extravaganza Drive Angry 3-D is not recommended for the squeamish, the highly suggestible, or children under 40. It should be OK for everyone else, though, particularly those with a high threshold for disreputability and a fondness for '70s-era drive-in caliber action junk. Its hero, played by Nicolas Cage, is a vigilante from hell; his mission, or at least one of them, is to tell the world to eat his dust.
Cage's character is a somber sort named John Milton, and his paradise really has been lost. When we first meet him, he's just chased down a group of baddies -- Satan worshipers, as we'll later learn -- and is busy dispatching them one by one with a mighty scary-looking automatic weapon. Before he sends these guys into the great beyond, though, he plies them with an urgent question: "Where is she? Where's my baby girl?" His victims utter some apparent nonsense about the impending full moon before succumbing to their respective gory deaths.
Milton takes a break from all this bloodshed to have a cup o' joe at a Texas truckstop, where he eyes a tough-talking, smart-looking blond waitress named Piper (played by the effortlessly appealing Amber Heard); he watches approvingly as she twists the nuts of her abusive boss. Milton hitches a ride in her '69 Charger, and from that point on, the two are nearly inseparable: Milton is obsessed with tracking down the head of a murderous Satanic cult (played, with whiskery, redneck authority, by Billy Burke). Meanwhile, he needs to avoid his own pursuer, a creepy-sexy smoothie in a Wall Street banker's suit (William Fichtner) who doesn't suffer fools gladly. (Just ask the two stoners who watch, agape, as he steps away unscathed from a car crash that surely would have killed any mere mortal. Their dorkiness amuses him mildly -- for about two seconds.)
Lussier and Farmer are the masterminds behind the 2009 My Bloody Valentine 3-D, which included one of the finest effects I've yet to see in any 3-D movie: A diminutive Boston terrier yaps fearlessly at the camera -- which is to say, at us -- secure in the knowledge that he's the biggest, toughest dog in the world. Lussier and Farmer have said they wanted to give a '70s-style action film the 3-D treatment, and they've pulled it off admirably. Drive Angry 3-D shows the same affection for the genre that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez lavished on their delectable 2007 double-feature Grindhouse -- except Drive Angry 3-D is possibly less classy. Lussier and Farmer aren't afraid to push buttons: Quite a few women, some of them naked,
get knocked around in Drive Angry 3-D (though the brutes who do it always get their comeuppance). There's even a shootout sequence that plays out, from start to finish, while our hero is in flagrante. That's something I don't believe I've ever seen in a movie. Maybe once is enough, but I sure do admire Lussier and Farmer's go-for-broke ingenuity.
Drive Angry 3-D also features all sorts of messy slashings and batterings, rendered in so-real-it's-fake-looking 3-D. But in the end, it's the very 3-D-ness of Drive Angry that makes it a little tiresome. Lussier and Farmer have worked out the story with a great deal of care, and they reel Cage out as far as he wants to go. He's a grizzled blond drifter hell-bent on revenge, uttering lines like "The charlatan murders my daughter and then feeds me his philosophy!" You tell 'em, Nic. Cage takes all this silliness not-too-seriously -- he's relaxed and fun to watch. But the 3-D spectacle swirling around him is wearying, possibly because the movie clocks in at about one hour and 45 minutes. (I've discovered that 92 minutes is my threshold for most 3-D; after that, my eyes start demanding combat pay.)
The sad reality of 3-D is that when you've seen one bullet heading straight for your forehead, you've seen them all. Lussier and Farmer come up with a few notably elegant 3-D shots, including one involving a smidgen of visual information revealed in a car's side-view mirror. But come on: We didn't come here for 3-D artistry. We came here to see guys -- and girls in short-shorts -- driving fast and busting stuff up, and plain old 2-D is good enough for that. When you put the pedal to the metal, the last thing you need is that extra dimension to slow you down.