What we have here, folks, is body parts flying through the air in 3D, gratuitous sex and nudity in 3D, Satanic rituals in 3D, supernatural bullets blowing car doors off in 3D … Doesn’t sound like your thing? Click away to something else. Drive Angry 3D is a rock-solid, fist-pumping grindhouse throwback about ten times more entertaining than almost anything in Grindhouse. Gleefully shameless, the movie wallows in wrongness, and that’s exactly where an exploitation flick needs to be. It is also, of course, as dumb as a box of hair, but when delivered with wit and commitment, as it is here, dumbness can be more satisfying and liberating than anything that wins Oscars this weekend.
Nicolas Cage helps a lot. Cage is in iconic bad-ass mode here as John Milton, a former criminal out to rescue his granddaughter from a Satanic cult. I’ve seen reviews that give away what Milton really is, and I’ve seen reviews that don’t. I won’t. What I will say is that Milton has a way of attracting women who usually fall for bad boys. They fall very hard, very quickly for him. His relationship with foul-mouthed, hard-punching ex-waitress Piper (Amber Heard), however, remains chaste. He needs her help, and, more specifically, her ex-boyfriend’s ’69 Charger. I suspect that if Piper’s ex drove a modern hybrid, Milton might’ve kept looking; he and the movie both worship classic muscle cars.
Any movie that casts William Fichtner as a mysterious emissary who calls himself The Accountant and can kill two men with a flip of a quarter has done half its work already. Strolling through the chaos with amusing sangfroid, Fichtner is also responsible for perpetuating what I guess is a new micro-trend in recent movies: this is the second time in as many weeks in which a character sits completely deadpan inside a vehicle falling backward from a great height, last week’s example being Unknown. The Accountant is on Milton’s trail, while Milton is pursuing Jonah King (Billy Burke), the leader of the Satanic cult. You know Jonah is evil because he’s a white man with a soul patch. He also has ’70s hair and sideburns — whoever groomed Burke for the role knew what kind of film this is.
After an unpromising start with the execrable Dracula 2000, director Patrick Lussier has recently given himself a second life as a designer of cheerfully meretricious 3D drive-in fare; his previous effort was 2009’s My Bloody Valentine 3D, much loved by a section of horror fandom. Drive Angry 3D, too, dabbles in horror and gore; it is, unlike Milton’s preferred vehicles, a hybrid — a mix of lowball 42nd-Street revengeploitation and supernatural schlock, complete with a Satanic cadre that travels in a bland-looking Winnebago (an affront to the hard-driving Milton). This hybrid guzzles gas, though, and spews a fog of violence and profanity and T&A — toxic for some viewers, I admit, but a shot of oxygen to grindhouse acolytes. The movie stabs it and steers, to quote another Cage anti-hero, burns rubber, and doesn’t give a fuck about global warming.
PS: Tom Atkins is in this, being a bad-ass as only Tom Atkins can. I forgot to mention him in the review proper. But Tom Atkins should never be overlooked.