The extended title to Drive Angry makes it exactly clear what kind of movie this is. Emphasizing the technology — that it is “Shot in 3D” — hearkens back to the short of cheap shilling that drew late-night audiences to low-budget films in the 1970s. True to that form, Drive Angry is a straight-up, balls-to-the-wall grindhouse exploitation film, with a hearty “piss off” to anyone who doesn’t want it that way.
A Satanist cult led by Jonah King (Billy Burke) has killed one of their own members and kidnapped her newborn daughter, meaning to sacrifice her at midnight of the next full moon at an abandoned prison in Louisiana. The baby’s grandfather — the girl’s estranged father — finds out about this and doesn’t like it at all. There’s just one hitch: he’s in Hell. So in order to stop them from murdering his granddaughter, John Milton (Nicholas Cage) busts out of Hell in an old muscle car. Why or how isn’t nearly so important as the fact that this is, in fact, Awesome.
So Milton — whose name is truly a great example of ham-fistedly beating the audience over the head with symbolism — has to chase the cultists from Colorado to Louisiana. Along the way he picks up Piper (Amber Heard), a feisty blonde with a killer right hook and a ’69 Charger. The cultists are out to stop him, and of course the police are chasing after this wave of destruction. And to top it all off, someone calling himself “The Accountant” (William Fichtner) is on Milton’s trail to return him to Hell where he belongs.
The great thing about a grindhouse exploitation movie is that it doesn’t have to make a lick of sense; it just has to be fun. In fact, the kiss of death for this kind of movie is when it tries to make itself more than it is. Luckily, Drive Angry has no such pretensions; it’s happy to just be Awesome.
Cage is always at home in these sorts of roles. Thankfully nobody gave him anywhere near the sort of dialogue from Season of the Witch, so he can just be gritty and Awesome in peace. Heard is unreasonably (and Awesomely) hot, no matter what sort of action she’s been through. And nobody but nobody wears a suit like Fichtner, which is — say it with me now — Awesome.
Let me be clear on this: there is absolutely no point to this movie. There is no moral or message or subtext. This is pure, unadulterated, mindless Awesome fun. Muscle cars are Awesome. Hot women are Awesome. Giant, five-chamber shotguns are Awesome. High-speed chases through abandoned industrial plants are Awesome. Massively overpowered explosions are Awesome. William Fichtner is Awesome. This movie is Awesome.
With a capital Fuckin’ A.
Worth it: yes, if you like exploitation films.
Bechdel test: fail.