Thursday, June 2, 2011

Drive Angry (2011)

The thing I want the most out of a B-Movie is to be entertained. Social commentary and whatnot are all fine, but if you don't have anything else for me, then get out. Roger Corman got that back in the day, producing the likes of "Death Race 2000", "Humanoids From the Deep" and "Forbidden World" among others. While some of these movies might have made a social statement, they also remembered what audiences wanted. Well, "Drive Angry" doesn't say anything insightful or intelligent, but dammit if it isn't one of the most fun B-Movie experiences I've seen all year, from Hollywood or not.

John Milton (Nicolas Cage) has broken out of hell to kill cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke), who killed his daughter and plans to sacrifice her baby in the name of Satan. In the process, he befriends Piper (Amber Heard), a down on her luck but tough as nails waitress, and finds the law (lead by Tom Atkins) and King's cult going after him. Oh, and to make matters worse, The Accountant (William Fichtner) has been sent by Satan to send Johnny boy back to hell.

The reason I mentioned Roger Corman earlier was mostly because of this: out of all the exploitation tributes I've seen, this is probably the one that most accurately captures the unapologetic fun and energy of the man's 70's/early 80's heyday. There's fast cars, humor that's actually funny, gratuitous nudity, gratuitous violence, gore, Satanic cults, souped up cars, car chases, explosions, likable characters, charismatic villains and anti-heroes, bare-knuckle action, and so much more. Unlike crap like "Bitch Slap" and "The Bleeding", this is clearly the work of people who not only love 70's exploitation and the like, but have done their homework and actually know what fans of those movies want, and, Hollywood sheen aside, delivers it.

Acting wise, it's pretty strong as well. Cage is good as our hero, delivering the kind of performance we should have gotten in "Season of the Witch", while Heard seems to be having a lot of fun as the tough as they get Piper and Billy Burke adds Southern swagger to Jonah King. The big standout though, is Fichtner as The Accountant. He steals the show here, adding an almost Christopher Walken level cool to his performance, delivering one liners with ease and making every scene he's in entertaining as hell.

I will admit that I do have two minor complaints. For one, we don't really get to know anything about Jonah's followers, as they are simply available to be killed by Milton or get their asses kicked by Piper. It would have been nice to at least know a little bit about one of them. Also, while he's fun in his role, it would have been nice if we had gotten a bit more of Tom Atkins. Dude's a cult movie icon for a good reason, and a few more scenes with him would have been great.

Still, those are minor complaints. "Drive Angry" is an unapologetic, crass, loud piece of work with nothing but mayhem on it's mind, and God bless it's heart for it. If only more tributes to exploitation where this fun.

Rating: 8.5/10

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