REVIEW: Drive Angry 3-D Is Disreputable Fun, Until 3-D Fatigue Sets In

Movieline Score:

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.


  • JC says:

    Haven't watched the movie nor have an interest to but from what I've seen on trailers and read, this movie seems like bastard child of Gone in 60 Seconds and Ghost Rider. Not going to pay $20 to watch this at the theatre.

  • Stormdrane says:

    For a movie shoot out with the 'hero' in 'flagrante', see Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci in 'Shoot 'em Up'.