Friday, February 25, 2011

Drive Angry 3D - Theatrical Review

Release Date: February 25, 2011

I was honest to goodness actually looking forward to this movie. I don't know what it was that gave me that itch for a trashy 80's style revenge flick but at least it got scratched finally. While this will certainly not be winning any awards, it is without a doubt one of Nicolas Cage's best movies (in a starring role that is) he has done in years.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 30 at the Block in Orange
Time: 12:01 am February 25, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 3D (Real-D)

Loves: Trashy 80's action movie throwbacks, gratuitous nudity, blood & guts, William Fichtner
Likes: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard
Neutral: Anything "Shot in 3D" anymore.
Hates: Badly edited action scenes
Amazed: That Nick Cage only threw two kung fu kicks

OK, before I start this I have to get this off my chest. I have literally just got back from seeing this film and I had some of the most blatantly rude and idiotic people of all time sitting behind me. Not sure how many there were (three I think) but the theater was filled with maybe 30 people tops and these three decide to sit directly behind me. First they showed up late (not trailers-still-playing late but movie has already started late) and as soon as they sit down they begin to have a pow wow about what they all want from the concession stand. A few minutes go by and the food returns and now they must discuss who gets what (apparently one of them can't stand onion rings). Next one of them leaves (restroom?) and when he returns his buddy promptly, and loudly, informs him on everything he missed. Finally, and this was the worst one, I start to hear a clicking behind me, yeah I know...a texter right? Wrong, this genius was looking for something and was clicking on his dam lighter over and over again for like a couple minutes. The worst part is that I was wearing 3D glasses and I got to see everything he was doing in the reflection because he lit everything up so dam well. Excuse my American but FUCK THEM!

Ah, alrighty then. I feel a little better I suppose. So with that out of the way let's get on with what you came here for. I have heard many people calling Drive Angry a Grindhouse style film, as in it is trying to recapture and recreate the style of those older campier action movies from back in those exploitation days. While there is plenty to back up that claim I have to slightly disagree with it...slightly. This to me felt more like one of those ridiculous late night Cinemax movies I caught when I was a kid in the mid to late 80's (Drive-In Saturday night anyone?) This is one of those films that shouldn't be measured on its story, its acting, or even its overall quality. This is one of those films that should be measured for the number of naked breasts, number of bodily dismemberments, and how many times the word f**k is used. And by those measurements I have to say that I came away fairly pleased with what I saw...fairly.

Duck!'s in 3D dam it! It's gonna hit you!

The story is a simple one, Milton (Nicolas Cage) has a score to settle with this lunatic Satan worshiping cult down south in Louisiana. The leader of that cult, Jonah King (Billy Burke), has not only brutally killed Milton's only daughter but now plans on offering up her newborn baby as a sacrifice to the big red one himself to help obtain eternal life. Jonah knows Milton is hunting him and sends every lackey he can to try to kill him, problem is that Milton can't be killed...because he is already dead. Milton has literally broken out of hell itself and come back to Earth to exact revenge on Jonah, save his daughter's child and kill every other member of his faction while driving his charger, looking cool and being very very angry.

There are a couple of other people that Milton meets on his road to revenge. The first, and most important, is the owner of that slick Dodge Charger, Piper (Amber Heard). After quitting her job and finding her fiance in bed with another woman (don't you just love how guys in movies like this don't hesitate to cheat on a woman like her?) she hooks up with Milton as she attempts to leave that horrible life behind her. Little does she know though that she has not only gotten herself into a heap of trouble with the law by joining him but also with the Devil himself. Hot on Milton's trail is a man that calls himself The Accountant (William Fichtner) whom, unless your are a complete moron, we quickly realize is the man tasked to bring Milton back down under into the fiery pits of hell.

Without a doubt the number one reason many sexually depraved men will go see this.

Like I said, the story is secondary...heck I would even go so far as to say third..ary, whatever. That's not to say it doesn't matter because it most certainly does, but it doesn't matter in the sense where if there are these major plot holes (why can't The Accountant just kill Milton?) or coincidences (Milton wakes up from a fatal gunshot exactly when the main bad guy has just left)  because we didn't care about any of that in the first place. At least I hope you didn't because you are going to be very upset with this film otherwise. Probably the most noteworthy and interesting relationship in the film actually is the one between Milton and The Accountant. Their encounters were the only ones where I cared enough to prick up my ears and listen.

My disinterest in the particulars of the plot are by no means the fault of the actors either. They all did what was expected of them (and in some cases more which I will get to in a bit). It just all felt like the filmmakers themselves were using the story as a means to get us from one shootout of car chase to the next and on that level it worked. And let's be honest with one another here, one of the major selling points is all the crazy action on hand and I thought that point was mostly gratifying in what we got. The shootouts were filled with limbs being blown off along with a pretty hefty body count when all was said and done. The problem I had with them, one in particular near the beginning, was that it was all shot in a by the numbers fashion. There is a scene with Milton clearing a room full of baddies with his pistol while he is in the process of having sex with a woman. In theory that sounds like a crazy idea (which was done much better in Shoot'em Up) but with the slow motion camera tricks it all just seemed...slow, with no sense of urgency to any of it.

Probably the most entertaining character in the whole movie.

Thankfully the scenes involving all the car chases came out much better. I think the one thing that won me over with the action on the roads was that it appeared to be mostly practical stunt work I was seeing. Actually I am pretty sure it was practical (except for maybe that Hydrogen truck scene) because the effects in the film are pretty substandard and I think I would have noticed if they weren't real. I am unsure if this was done on purpose but any time there was a scene involving some type of effect it was often glaringly bad, especially the green screens in the background we see when we are in the cars. If it was purposeful then kudos to the filmmakers because they got it just right but if not then...well, let's just say they better pretend it was on purpose. Regardless though the car stunts were pretty awesome and made for some mildly thrilling moments.

The real question mark for just about anyone I have talked to in regards to whether or not they were going to see the film was for it's main star. Nicolas Cage is the poster child for a roller coaster career and quality in film choices. I will admit that his name being attached to this film gave me a very long moment of pause when considering to go see it in the theater. He is a gifted actor that was sidetracked midway through his career by Michael Bay who made him think that he would make a great action star when he cast him in The Rock. Nicolas Cage is not a good action star, he just can't pull it off and the few times he tried it has only every been mildly successful. Luckily he let's his car do most of the action work in this film and the few moments he does have outside the car he is busy shooting people instead of trying his best at a martial arts impersonation (although he does get a few kicks in there for good measure). I would have to say that he pulled this one off, even while in his serious mode. The best thing I can say is that he doesn't make or break the film, whether you like it or don't rests squarely on the shoulders of the film itself.

In spite of her assets *ahem*... Ms. Heard proves she has got some acting chops as well.

Amber Heard is one of those up and coming actresses that is at a point in her career where she is grabbing on to anything to get her name out there. I don't hold anything against her for it (remember when George Clooney played in a horror movie about vampires?) and as a matter of fact I hope she keeps going at this pace. Her performance here is not mind-blowingly fantastic  but she definitely gives it her all. She plays the part of a cursing, punching little spitfire that is constantly trying to beat up guys that usually end up beating the crap out of her instead pretty dam convincingly. She does show that there is much more going on beneath that beautiful veneer of hers though and nails just about every moment she is on screen. I am definitely intrigued and await with anticipation to see what she does next.

Then there is William Fichtner as The Accountant. Probably my favorite character of the film and one of my all time favorite character actors in general, he steals every moment he was on screen as the snide and ever pursuant U.S. Marshal from hell. I always love it when an actor like Fichtner gets to strut his stuff in a larger role than they usually gets. He is one of those guys that you recognize but can almost never place where from, and that is because like any good character actor he is in everything. He plays this role with the perfect amount of restraint and villainy that makes you actually start to like him despite his origins and/or intentions. Even when he is torturing people (usually bad people though) you kind of root for the guy. And that is all due to the charisma that Fichtner brings to the role. Moments like when he is in a car falling off the side of a bridge as he hums a piece of music to himself while he waits for it to end or steps out of a vehicle's door on to the hood of another car just before it flips and explodes are priceless.

Driving while angry may lead to the constant killing of bad people.

I would be remiss not to at least bring up some of the issues I had with the film. Given the type of film this is I only hold it up to the standards of that genre and in that regard it has some glaring issues. First and foremost are some of the action set pieces like the aforementioned shootout scene but especially during the midpoint of the film with a rather lengthy car chase. The editing for this scene is just bad, as Milton drives off on to side roads over and over again to lose his pursers I for the life of me had no idea how he kept finding his way back to the main road and directly IN FRONT of the car he had been chasing before hand. I like to know where all the players are in such an elaborate action scene and this failed completely on that front.  I also thought it was amusing that through all the beat downs Amber Heard's character goes through (she gets beat up a lot) she never has one bruise or blemish on that perfect face of hers. And in general I just didn't really care what happened to any of the main characters, I was pretty middle of the road on Milton and Piper, the real world bad guy Jonah was complete weak sauce as a villain. I suppose that buried deep within me somewhere there was a hidden desire to not see the baby sacrificed (yeah, I'm horrible I know) but on the surface I could really give a shit. I did hope that everything would turn out OK for The Accountant though.

Before I end this I do want to mention that while the film is extremely violent and has more naked breasts than you can count on two hands that there is a lot of humor to be found here as well. Almost every scene with The Accountant is amusing as...well hell I guess. I loved the running gag about how the police are willing and ready to shoot anything until someone pulls out an FBI badge. Then all of a sudden they do whatever the FBI tells them, hilarious. I guess that about covers it though, oh and I did see this in 3D which was a complete waste. What little there was in 3D was gimmicky and not very effective. I was hoping for at least some sort of depth of field but for a film touting that it was "Shot in 3D" they sure as hell didn't get their money's worth out of it, and neither did I for that matter. But in the end I think the films falls right into the category of....



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