Normally it is the policy of “Blast From the Past” to wait at least a few years to make sure a movie really has fallen into the realms of semi-obscurity. Yet with Drive Angry, this seems unnecessary. Here is a film that was so completely unloved, so resolutely ignored, that it may as well have fallen through a time warp, and it flopped so hard it could have broken the speed of light.
Perhaps the film flopping really isn’t that surprising. It’s rare when a film as disreputable as Drive Angry staggers in to the multiplex, drunk and surly as a father who’s just been asked to leave his son’s little league game. Make no mistake, Drive Angry is bad for you: It rots your teeth and makes it burn when you pee. But exploitation that isn’t a little bad for you is doing something wrong. I can say without hyperbole that Drive Angry is everything a B-movie should be.
After all, this is a movie that begins with Nicolas Cage driving a hotrod out of hell and features, in no particular order, a shootout during a sex scene that makes Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing look like an underachiever, Cage with a shotgun in one hand and a baby in the other, and Simpler Times beer (now only 90 percent turpentine!) being drunk from the skull of a vanquished enemy.
The film follows Cage as an escapee from hell who has come back to bring a heaping helping of pain to the cultists who killed his child and kidnapped his granddaughter. Drive Angry plays on the Satansploitation movies of the ’70s and ’80s—films like Ride With the Devil and The Devil’s Rain (and, man, if you ever want to see a real piece of shit … ), which postulated that there was a Satanist on every corner just waiting to do the Fallen One’s bidding. The only difference was that those movies didn’t usually feature said minions being mowed down with extreme prejudice by Nicolas Cage. The levels of mayhem just keep rising.
The film smartly puts a cast of ringers around Cage: ’80s horror icon Tom Atkins is given a good role as a crusty cop who gets some of the best lines; Amber Heard fills in the role of Cage’s sidekick, with enough personality and toughness to overcome being cast as “the girl”; and best of all is William Fichtner being possessed by the premature ghost of Christopher Walken as The Accountant, tasked with bringing Cage back to hell. He stays coolly detached throughout the chaos around him and nearly steals the film.
Drive Angry offers more bad taste and cheap thrills than most seasons of film. Like Simpler Times, it’s an acquired taste, and the morning after you might be awful sorry you consumed it, but while it lasts, Drive Angry is a good ol’ time. (2011, color; 104 min.)