You’ll have to be a fan of action naturally, and an undying love for star Nic Cage certainly helps as well, but director/co-writer Patrick Lussier proves in the space of two hours that 3-D is still a valuable commodity in its more gimmicky form, the one that throws severed limbs and balls of fire at your face with abandon.
“Drive Angry” isn’t just about the gimmick of course, but it is used to great effect in a number of scenes. Lussier took some time out recently to chat with MTV News about designing the film’s 3-D effect as a whole as well as singling out some of his favorite moments. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead.
Before “Drive Angry,” Lussier and his writing partner Todd Farmer teamed for a 3-D remake of the horror flick “My Bloody Valentine.” A solid, if schlocky, horror movie on its own, the pair’s earlier work provided valuable insight as they put the new release together.
“In writing the film, we wrote these sort of three-dimensional arcs based on what we learned in [’My Bloody Valentine’],” Lussier explained. “So Todd Farmer and I… went to this and said ’These are the three-dimensional crescendos.'”
It’s an unusual way to think about building a story, piecing narrative together around these visually striking moments that essentially start with someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if….” There are quite a few of them scattered throughout “Drive Angry” and Lussier came away from the production with a few clear favorites.
Opening With A Bang
“One of them is in the first three minutes, when one of the F–kers — as we lovingly referred to them — gets his hand blown off,” he revealed. “Anytime we show that to anybody, their instant reaction isn’t horror… it’s laughter. They can’t believe that you are doing that.”
The moment comes from the first scene in the film, when Cage’s John Milton chases down a truck full of bad guys in a beastly muscle car and then picks them apart with his shotgun. The hand being blown off is the first 3-D moment that really embraces the gimmick, and it sets a positive tone for the rest of the film.
“That whole sequence has a few of them,” Lussier continued. “The title itself coming at you, Nic firing the shotgun at the guys who are cowering in the corner, those things really sort of pop and mesmerize you in 3-D.”
A Nude Fistfight In Public
Maybe a third of the way into the movie, Cage meets up with Amber Heard’s Piper and hitches a ride, which takes him as far as her home. The two ultimately throw in together on Milton’s journey, and the event that brings them together stands out as another of Lussier’s favorites.
“Seeing Todd Farmer playing… the evil fiance, having sex with Christa Campbell and then [Amber Heard] grabbing her and punching her out,” he said of the scene. What that description doesn’t make clear is the fact that Campbell is completely nude for the whole of the scene.
“It’s always strange to see nudity anytime [in a movie], everybody gets a little weirded out at least for the first hour,” Lussier said “[And in ’Drive Angry’ we were] shooting it outside in a public area. It sort of becomes rawly entertaining.”
Not All Just For Gimmicks
For all of its flash, there’s a decent amount of substance to “Drive Angry” as well. Perhaps not on the level that wins Oscars, but Lussier also got a little artsy with his deployment of 3-D, using it to enhance the story as well as entertain.
“One of the 3-D moments that, for me, is most successful is the flashback,” he revealed. “When you see Nic driving the car and you sort of go into the story of why he’s doing what he’s doing [as a] three-dimensional overlay of Billy Burke, the hero over the villain’s face.”
“You realize the hero is not necessarily a good guy, but whatever he’s going to do to the bad guys, you are going to cheer for him no matter how much horror he inflicts on those who have done him wrong. The 3-D of that is something I was very proud of, how it all worked, how it came together.”
What is likely the standout moment for many in “Drive Angry” is Milton’s dalliance with a local in a seedy motel room and the gunfight that ensues while they are in the midst of getting busy. The key point to understand is that this entire, elaborate shootout is staged with just one core idea in mind: Cage’s character never stops… errr… doing his thing.
“The sex scene shootout probably is a topper,” Lussier said. The director came up with the idea for the raunchy sequence during a conversation with Farmer, who told Lussier: “It’s going to be up to you to figure that one out.” It wasn’t an easy process, to say the least.
“We rehearsed that for weeks trying to figure out how to do it, how to make the camera shoot it in slow-mo,” Lussier continued after his anecdote. “How we were going to line up the hatchet so it was coming at you, and the cattle prod, choosing the weapons, what weapons would enhance the 3-D for us.”
One weapon in particular stood out, for utterly fantastic reasons. “The cattle prod was such a key thing because it was both a weapon and an instrument of orgasm at the same time. Which was just the [most bizarre] thing to have conversations about in production meetings.”
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