The premise for Drive Angry sounded mighty appealing: Nicholas Cage and Amber Heard drive a 1969 Dodge Charger in a shoot ‘em up action flick. Unfortunately Drive Angry isn’t quite the car movie we were lead to expect, but it at least has some automotive eye candy.
The story follows the unlikely friendship between Milton (Cage), an “undead” felon, and Piper (Heard), a down-on-her-luck tough girl. Piper has quit her job and is running away from her boyfriend, while Milton has escaped Hell in order to track down the devil-worshipping cult that kidnapped his granddaughter — reality TV this is not.
Fortunately Piper has a pristine 1969 Dodge Charger 440 for the road trip, which leads the unlikely duo to run-ins with fanatical religious types and the Accountant (William Fichtner), a soft-spoken suit sent from Hell to keep tabs on Milton.The Charger becomes the centerpiece of several hairy car chases, drive-by shootings, and general vehicular mayhem; Cage and Heard later swap it for a gorgeous 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS.O ther sheet metal includes a 1964 Buick Riviera, a Lincoln Towncar, a Hyundai Sonata, and a decrepit R.V — which, implausibly, manages to give the Charger a run for its money.
Considering the name Drive Angry, though, there’s not as much vehicular content as we had hoped. Sure, there are a few chases, burnouts, and lurid slides, but the film’s crux is that Cage shoots lots of people, chases cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke), and delivers cheesy one-liners in his trademark breathless drawl. The vehicular stunts are at least creative and somewhat believable; The filmmakers are proud of the fact that most of the stunts were performed without the use of computer-generated effects.
The best performance undoubtedly comes from Fichtner as the cool and collected Accountant who calmly dispatches with anyone standing between him and Milton. In this role, he’s responsible for Drive Angry’s few truly funny moments — though written to be an action-comedy, the film elicits precious few laughs. Burke also gives a convincing performance as the gun-slinging, fire-and-brimstone southern preacher who killed Cage’s daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. We were less impressed by the movie’s climax, in which the gates of Hell open in rural Texas.
Though it has some redeeming moments and is entertaining overall, Drive Angry feels mostly like a send-up of 1970s car-chase and horror movies. The film can’t seem to decide whether it’s a serious horror flick or a tongue-in-check dark comedy. Drive Angry definitely isn’t a good choice for family movie night, as profanity and gory violence pervade the 105-minute run time. If only there was more focus on driving angrily and less on shooting zealots…
Drive Angry is available now on DVD, Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray.