Drive Angry (US - BD RA)
Gabe tends to drive while pouting, which wouldn't make a very exciting movie...
Long dead sinner John Milton (Nicolas Cage) literally drives a muscle car out of the gates of hell after discovering his infant granddaughter is about to be sacrificed in the name of Satan by a cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke). King, as it turns out, also killed Milton’s daughter while he was away. Milton learns that the sacrifice is going to take place during the full moon at Stillwater Marsh, an abandoned prison in Louisiana. On his way to Stillwater, Milton stops at a diner, where he meets Piper (Amber Heard), a tough and trashy waitress with a cool car that he needs. After helping her dispatch her worthless fiancé, the duo takes to the road, with a demonic, seemingly invincible ‘Accountant’ (William Fichtner), hot on their trail.
Drive Angry really wants to be a good bad movie, but it’s trying way too hard, and doesn’t have the audacity it thinks it does. It sits somewhere between Grindhouse (which my friend Phil pointed out as the only flop to led to an entire series of follow-ups), and the semi-recent run of over-the-top, post-modern action flicks like Running Scared and Shoot ‘Em Up. Most of all I think it wants to capture the manic, anarchic energy of the Crank movies, along with their delightful lack of a moral compass. But unlike these films, which achieve different levels of success, Drive Angry usually comes across as less of a celebration of excess, and more of a 13-year-old’s re-telling the same jokes he heard his older brother telling three weeks before. Like those aforementioned films, Drive Angry is basically one long joke, and like most jokes, the success is in the timing. Director Patrick Lussier, and his writing partner Todd Farmer had some great timing when they remade My Bloody Valentine, but this time around just about every joke has been told before and better. The sex scene shootout was funnier when I saw it in Shoot ‘Em Up, the glasses to cover an incidental eye injury joke was funnier when I saw it in The Terminator, the chick fight in a motor home was funnier when I saw it in Kill Bill, and even the over the top sex scene featuring Todd Farmer was funnier in the team’s own My Bloody Valentine. I know I lost some of the experience by not watching it in 3D (the gimmick does tend to work best for silly genre product), but I was plenty amused by the My Bloody Valentine and Piranha remakes in 2D.
There are some neat (unoriginal) ideas floating around here, and my nerdy, Generation X right brain wants me to believe all this Race with the Devil over-the-toppery is cool, but my thinking brain continues to take over, and it tells me the right brain is wrong. The obscenity is just crude, and out of step with the rest of the film. The violence is surprisingly weak considering the reputation the filmmakers culled. Worse yet there isn’t even a lot of car action, certainly less than I’d expect from a medium $50 million budget (that estimate does seem a bit high to me, but it’s all I can find) with a title and ad campaign centering around moving vehicles. The plot, which I’m thinking no one was expecting much from, doesn’t really go anywhere, and the filmmakers and cast are more interested in presenting cool looking characters than cool acting characters. William Fichtner manages to sell every ounce of sub-Tarantino over-writing, and while interacting with Fichtner Cage does to, but otherwise the dialogue is so awkward the performances are flat and sad. Again, it’s not so much the joke, it’s how you tell it. Even Tom Atkins finds the whole thing beyond his control, but if you ever needed any more proof that Fichtner is one of the best character actors working today, here it is.
Though I’d probably be happier watching it in 3D, which I can’t since I don’t have a 3D set, there’s little to complain about with this 1080p transfer. The filmmakers shot Drive Angry using digital 3D cameras. I don’t know what equals what when it comes to the science and technology of digital 3D cameras, but like the Red digital cameras, everything I see filmed using them looks pretty incredible. Using similar (the same?) cameras the same team made My Bloody Valentine into a pretty grimy affair, but clearly the format can work create extremely clear images just as well. Pearson and cinematographer Brian Pearson utilize a lot of wide lenses, but the whole film kind of glows, and contrast levels aren’t incredibly high, so the details aren’t nearly as sharp as those we’ve seen out of Red camera movies like Crank 2 and Gamer. This is obviously a stylistic choice, so I don’t count it against the transfer. The transfer shines in terms of clarity – there aren’t any major bouts with grain or digital artefacts – and in terms of colour vibrancy. The neon and pastel infused palette that works its way through the first two acts is enormously successful, not to mention kind of refreshing for type, and the fire and brimstone final act turns the otherwise soft looking transfer into a relatively high contrast beauty. The sharpish image and lack of 3D enhancement really damages some of the digital effects, especially the fuzzy green screen mattes, and Syfy channel-looking animated cars. Oh, and the digital blood, which is probably plenty satisfying when it’s slapping you in the face.
I’m sorry, what? I can’t hear you, I just watched Drive Angry with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack at a realistic volume. This is definitely one of the louder tracks that I’ve heard in a while. And this isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes I found this particular track was so loud it buzzed a bit. Once I turned things down to a more realistic volume level, I mostly enjoyed the busy mix, though was a little disappointed by the lack of more excessive and cartoony effects. Based on the film’s goofy targets I don’t think a little Looney Tunes infusion. Besides the bone-crunching car chases and ear-splitting shootouts, Drive Angry’s hyperactive sound team keeps the surround channels busy with basic ambience. The one element left in the cold throughout most of the film is the musical score, which is left in the lurch any time it isn’t the primary oral element. And the scare stabs are spread too far into the rear channels on several occasions, creating awkward balance. Sometimes the moving musical cues kind of work, especially the occasional Morricone-esque guitar twang. The pop music choices (which are crummy, outside the obvious Meat Loaf bit) settle nicely into the front channels, and feature nice LFE balance.
The bulk of the extras revolves around the ‘Access Drive Angry’ picture in picture index, which includes scene specific video interviews/commentary (‘Cast and Crew Insights’), a body count counter (‘Milton’s Mayhem’), and pop-up factoids (‘Did You Know?’). The interview/ commentary bits are amusing enough, and offer some insight, but do feel more like an EPK talking point compilation. The counter and pop-ups are just fine too, but for whatever reason the viewer cannot access all three at the same time. I’m not sure there’s anyone who really wants to watch the film again with only the body count or pop-ups, though the fact that the audio quality doesn’t change much when people aren’t speaking picture in picture is a plus, as is the option to skip to the next talking point if this is your third time watching the film (especially when you didn’t really like it the first time). More consistent is the audio commentary from writer/director Patrick Lussier and writer Todd Farmer, though the participants’ tone is a little grim. Between the interviews and commentary track it’s clear that Lussier and Farmer are a bit in love with their own work (they only wrote one draft of the script, apparently), and there’s nothing essentially wrong with that, but it does grate a little bit tonally, especially when they praise themselves for the sex-shoot-out, which was already done better five years ago. The most interesting snippets are those that reveal how much of Fichtner’s input went in to the character and the scenes he’s featured in.
The only other extras are two deleted scenes with optional filmmaker commentary (1:30, HD), neither of which fill any of the plot holes, and a trailer for Source Code.
If it’s any indication of quality, Drive Angry is very, very much a companion piece to Ghost Rider. Beyond the obvious stuff like staring Nicolas Cage, and the hell and vehicle motifs, they’re both stylistic rip-offs of well known genre work, and both not very good. This one means well, and I’m happy to support excessive sex and violence, but I’m not a fan of Drive Angry, and would prefer watching any number of recent loving exploitation excess flicks like Crank, Grindhouse, Running Scared or Shoot ‘Em Up instead. The A/V quality is pretty top notch, and the extras, though not as inclusive and informative as you might assume based on their description, are pretty solid, and should give fans something to smile about, along with new reasons to re-watch the film.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray's image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 31st May 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Extras: Access Drive Angry, Filmmaker Commentary, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Patrick Lussier
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke
Genre: Action and Comedy
Length: 105 minutes
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