Hollywood’s attempt to recapture the sleazy spirit of 1970s exploitation movies has resulted in all manner of abominations, from Quentin Tarantino’s dire Death Proof to last month’s redundant remake of The Mechanic.
So it’s great to see a film which gets it right: Patrick Lussier’s second 3D movie following 2009’s well-received My Bloody Valentine may be a bit too slickly self-aware for its own good, but it’s also rivetingly paced, outrageously funny and makes retina-scorching use of the new 3D technology.
Nicolas Cage is on teeth-baring, eye-rolling form as John Milton (nice), the deceased felon who busts out of hell to track down the Southern death cult who kidnapped his baby granddaughter. Hooking up with mouthy muscle-car-driving white-trash waitress Piper (Amber Heard), Milton sets off in pursuit, all the while attempting to avoid the attentions of Satan’s right-hand man, The Accountant (a majestically arch William Fichtner).
Taking inspiration from rough-hewn high-octane ’70s trash like Race with the Devil (satanism, motor homes), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (rednecks, limb-lopping) and Mad Max (fast cars, psycho villains, vengeful anti-heroes), Drive Angry is a mish-mash of familiar elements, but it’s all lashed together with such relentless drive, blunt invention and pitch-black wit that it’s hard not to get dragged along by it. Lussier’s slam-bang directorial style is exhaustingly excessive, but his action set pieces, including a thunderous motel gunfight in which Cage offs five thugs while having sex with a waitress, are immersive and breathtaking. The result might be the most fun Friday night of 2011. Tom Huddleston