Drive Angry is all jagged edges and broken promises. Take the title: such a simple descriptor, so easy to execute. Except there aren't all that many driving stunts; if anything, this is a genial road trip film, with far more shots of the '69 Charger or 454 Chevelle SS simply moseying on down the ol' road. And then consider the "anger" aspect, again lacking. If anything, we get a cool and detached quest for vengeance, with none of the passion or depth the word "anger" conveys. But what if we don't take the words separately -- perhaps Nic Cage is mad as he's behind the wheel? Nope, no joy can be found there either. He's efficiently driving, perhaps even driving lethally, but nothing approaching angry driving. In fact, you could find a far better example of "Driving Angry" in a film called Groundhog Day, and that's even after the protagonist encourages the groundhog not to drive angry. So yeah, Drive Angry, it's nightmare city right from the get-go.
At this point everyone in the free world is saying, "Well, you know, what did you expect? It's a Nic Cage movie about him driving around, doling out death." Fair enough, and clearly everyone involved here was in on the joke that is Drive Angry. Every shred of terrible dialogue is said firmly tongue-in-cheek, and the creative team here put their efforts into homaging "bad-ass" muscle car cinema. I just wonder if these resources, and all these efforts, couldn't have been used for something, you know, actually good? It's all well and good to make homages, but the films they're glorifying were made the way they were because the people involved didn't have much in the way of money or time. There was a reason for the finished product, a momentum of trying to make something from limited resources. And sure, there was terrible dialogue in the "B movie" genre, but at least it was original back then. Throwing studio dollars at an attempt to re-create something that was at least uniquely bad feels like the very reason we can't have nice things. But I digress.
Our hero, Nicolas Cage, is one bad dude. He's so bad that he escaped from hell, and this line should be said in "breathy summer movie guy" voice. His action scenes will be accompanied by cheesy guitar riffs, and even when he's having sex he's also killing folk on the regular. The other main character, played by Amber Heard, isn't back from hell, though she seems to be comprised of large amounts of bluster followed by even larger amounts of getting punched in the face by men. So if you're looking for a film where a fellow drives aimlessly around and then a gal gets massively beaten up, have I got the movie for you!*
Now I'm not one to claim violence can't be used to dramatic effect, heck, my favorite film last year was Inglourious Basterds. It's just that everything here has so little in the way of consequences. The plot loosely (and I mean loosely) revolves around Cage trying to rescue his granddaughter from satanic kidnappers, but as none of the characters have depth, none of the action matters in the slightest. It's as if they filmed Nic Cage playing a county fair "whack-a-mole" game, only there's no fuzzy pink bear prize at the end. The effects are also remarkably dismal, in some cases appearing unfinished, and the 3-D -- while occasionally technically proficient -- is financially superfluous. At one point I'm pretty sure Nic Cage ran over a rubber snake in the road, just to see how much silliness an audience could endure. In no way should anyone be paying any extra dollars to see this film in 3-D. Save your money for something more tangible, like a frozen yogurt, or a postcard to your nana.
Drive Angry is in the unfortunate position of having no real reason to exist, terrible dialogue, no plot to speak of, and relatively poor effects. The good news? It's less than two hours, the soundtrack isn't abysmal, and there's a decent amount of laughs. Still, if paid professionals can endeavor to make a terrible film on purpose I see no reason we can't reward them with only our scorn and derision.
*Not featured on the poster or trailer, though I gave them permission.