What makes you… drive angry? For me it’s people who use mobile phones while they’re behind the wheel or motorists who don’t bother indicating when they’re turning left or right. Grrr. Also the expression ‘drive angry’, which should surely be ‘drive angrily’ although, oddly, it doesn't actually make me 'drive angry'. Or even angrily. But what makes John Milton (aka Nicolas "I’ll do it!" Cage)'drive angry'? Or angrily. Well, very probably the fact that he’s dead and has had to break out of Hell to find the rampaging bunch of satanists who have murdered his daughter and kidnapped his baby granddaughter so they can sacrifice her and rip open Hell and bring about the end of the world. Obviously.
So this week’s Nic Cage movie is Drive Angry, a pumped-up grindhouse wet dream for fast car and loud gun fetishists, directed by Patrick Lussier (he edited the 1996 Paul McGann Doctor Who TV movie, fact fans!) with, it seems, a perfectly straight face and with no sense of irony or appreciation of the fact that the entire movie is hair-raisingly ridiculous. Lussier's created a film full of moody beer-swillin' men in leather, (not terribly) fast cars, a bit of gratuitous nudity, lots of random violence and the inevitable pumping heavy metal soundtrack.
But utterly against my better judgment I rather liked it. Cage has a knack for making this sort of high concept stuff work where an actor who takes his career rather more seriously might struggle. Cage, all wild hair and glowering looks, strides through the madness as if he actually believes it (much as he does in Ghost Rider and the feeble Season of the Witch) and he makes Hell-escapee Milton a more sympathetic character than we might expect. Milton hooks up with grungy waitress Piper (Amber Heard) to track down his daughter's killers - he offs them with merciless abandon, particularly in an extended gun battle where Milton is, er, otherwise engaged. Tracking Milton is The Accountant (the charismatic William Fichtner), channelling Christopher Walken as the being sent from Hell to bring back escapees and, in this instance, give Milton a helping hand where and when he needs it. Fichtner, best known for his recurring role as the determined FBI officer Alex Mahone in Prison Break is brilliant, firing off deadpan quips and dismissing everyone is his way with devastating put-downs. Fichtner gives the movie the much-needed sense of humour it wouldn't otherwise have as both Cage, despite the twinkle in his eye, and his director seem determined to treat Drive Angry as an intense experience in psychological terror when, in reality, it's just a bit of dumb trash.
Loud, brutal, mysoginistic and inane - Cage ends the movie drinking beer from the sizzling skull of his vaporised enemy - Drive Angry feels absolutely like the sort of movie it's impossible to condone let alone enjoy. Yet its idiocy makes it compelling and sometimes it's cool just to kick back, sideline those critical faculties, and watch a big brash grungy film which works just because it's what it is and not in spite of it. Hellishly enjoyable.
Drive Angry is out now on DVD and Blu-ray