Friday, April 22, 2011

Drive Angry

What a Ride

Fast cars, wicked guns, gratuitous nudity and unadulterated violence. No, we're still about a month away to the next Fast and Furious franchise, but while waiting for Vin Diesel and gang to zoom into cinemas, Patrick Lussier's Drive Angry powers into 3D cinemas here offering what would be as close to a B-grade exploitation/grindhouse film as possible, with plenty of tongue-in-cheekiness that often raises your eyebrow and let out a guffaw or two at the audacity of it all.

Nicolas Cage revisits his links with Hell again, no longer making a pact like he did as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider (which he will be reprising in another reboot of sorts), but a Crow-esque like character called John Milton who steals a heck of a multi-barreled gun from Hell, and busts out of Hades back to Earth in search of the cult leader Jonah King, (Billy Burke, who played Bella's dad in Twilight) who had murdered his daughter and taken his infant granddaughter (yes, Cage plays a grandfather!) as a sacrifice to the devil. Needing to save his only kin he returns with bad attitude as the avenger on fire seeking to kill every cult member who stands in his way, and then some.

Amber Heard continues in her blonde femme fatale stereotype as Piper the waitress whom Milton hooks up with for a deliberate reason other than that she drives a mean car - the black Dodge Charger (seriously with that kind of wheels and velvety purr of the engine who wouldn't want to hook up?) and embarking on a gun totting adventure together, filled with car chases and adversaries from both Earth and the nether world with The Acccountant (William Fichtner, the bank manager in The Dark Knight's opening scene) hot on their heels to try and recapture Milton back to where he belongs in the underworld. She doesn't have much to do here other than to look hot, swear and deliver some hard hitting punches and kicks, though Nicolas Cage also didn't venture any further with this role, growling constantly, posing and preening to look good when behind the wheel, or in preparation with his gear all set up for the next hit, blessed with a certain degree of invulnerability given his character's background.

Everyone seemed to be going over the top with their roles, even the supporting ones, and throughout the film you felt that director Lussier probably instructed his cast not to get too serious with the material, with lame one liners standing in for witty wisecracks, big bang action that borders on the impossible but undoubtedly a lot more fun, cheesy special effects at times to lend some B-level gravitas, and action that had comical results at times. Take for instance a knock off from the Clive Owen-Monica Belluci starrer Shoot 'Em Up where the hero takes on a constant stream of faceless goons while making love, although this one had an unexpected, wickedly comical moment midway through that impossible feat.

I'd watched this in the 2D version since I'm jaded with the slew of mediocre 3D offerings that employs the cheat sheat of not shooting the film in 3D but converting them during post production. This would be one of those films that would justify the 3D format given that it was shot in it, and had plenty of specifically crafted scenes done to exploit that medium, which honestly are quite nicely done since one does notice them when things start flying toward the screen, from the opening title right down to the finale with almost everything blowing to smithereens, sans 3D glasses.

This is that guilt trip of escapism and entertainment that cinema offers, if you're in need for that right mix of screen violence, comedy and action all rolled into one. It probably won't be an instant classic, but it's one heck of a modern update and tamer version of the grindhouse genre accessible to mainstream audiences.

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