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Review: ‘Drive Angry’

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Vengeful Dad

David Morse and Nicolas Cage star in

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Above: David Morse and Nicolas Cage star in "Drive Angry."

"Drive Angry" (opening February 25 throughout San Diego and in 3D in select theaters) takes road rage to a whole new level.

The tagline on the poster for "Drive Angry" says, "All hell breaks loose." I thought that was just a figure of speech but it turns out hell, Satan, and a dead man walking are all part of this 3D action film. I went in expecting a 3D "Gone in Sixty Seconds" and I was rather pleasantly surprised to get a supernatural action flick.

The poster also boasts that "Drive Angry" was shot in 3D. Some people may not realize that many films presented in 3D just have the 3D added in post-production (this tends to look like crap). Only a few films – like "Avatar" -- are actually shot in 3D. "Drive Angry" was shot in 3D and a lot of effort was definitely put into the opening action sequence, which looks damn good and pulls no punches with the violence. "Drive Angry" announces right from the start that it's an R-rated action film and that alone is likely to win it some fans.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

Amber Heard is the eye candy in "Drive Angry."

Editor-turned-director Patrick Lussier previously did the remake of "My Bloody Valentine," which I have to say had some of the best 3D gore effects. Now he gives us some fun and effective 3D action – only problem is that he essentially shoots his 3D wad in the opening scene and then has nothing left for the next hour and a half.

The story involves a man named Milton (Nicolas Cage) who's on a mission to track down the man who killed his daughter and took his baby grandchild. Complications arise from the fact that the man is Jonah King (Billy Burke, the dad from the "Twilight" films), the leader of a satanic cult. Jonah plans to sacrifice the baby and bring hell on earth. Standing in Milton's way is an odd man who calls himself The Accountant (William Fichtner). Eye candy is provided by Piper (Amber Heard), whose classic muscle car Milton needs in order to pursue Jonah.

I have to confess that I went into "Drive Angry" with the lowest of expectations so to say I enjoyed parts of the ride is not much of a compliment. I did like the supernatural elements but mostly I took delight in Fichtner's performance as the bean counter from hell who comes to earth to tidy up some bookkeeping. I have always enjoyed Fichtner but he's usually relegated to supporting roles where he shines but never gets the spotlight. As The Accountant he has the awkwardness of someone new to earth so his movements are stiff and his manner of speech is stilted. He's a bit like Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith in "The Matrix." Fichtner's performance, with its perfectly played one-liners, is almost worth the price of admission. (Check out the clip below of him acting all badass.)

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

I love William Fichtner! He plays The Accountant in "Drive Angry."

Amber Heard's 3D assets also help the film and she gets points for being allowed to kick some ass along the way. Her Piper is not the screaming helpless female so that too was a plus. In some ways Cage was the weakest link in the cast. He lacked the crazy intensity he usually brings to a role and Milton seems ripe for craziness. And Burke just seems elated to be in a movie without sparkling vampires.

Lussier – who serves as writer, director, and editor -- endows "Drive Angry" with the right tone of humor and self-deprecation yet he doesn't know how to construct a story. He's got a decent framework but he doesn't fill in the details very well. If the plot holes were in 3D the audience would be swallowed up by them like some black hole. But that's where the humor and the I-don't-give-a-damn attitude come in handy. You can sit back, check your brain at the door (or just stash it in the trunk for awhile) and enjoy the ride.

Clip: 'Drive Angry'

Clip from "Drive Angry" featuring William Fichtner.

As I mentioned the 3D is quite good but it's only really used to its fullest in the opening sequence that involves a car chase and shootout. The scene has the expected guns pointed out into the audience and bullets shot right into the theater but there's also some nice depth of field on display. Horror and action seem to lend themselves best to 3D's gimmicky nature and I give Lussier credit for knowing how to make better use of it than most filmmakers. Although the big shootout in which Milton tries to finish his lovemaking while finishing off an onslaught of would be assassins falls far short of a similar action sequence in "Shoot 'Em Up." The 3D here is no match for the cleverness of "Shoot 'Em Up's" 2D action.

"Drive Angry" (rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language) is a B movie that at least knows what it wants to do and is not embarrassed to do it. So there's plenty of violence, T&A, fast cars, and f-bombs. With solid 3D action, Fichtner's quirky performance, and the ability to not take itself seriously, "Drive Angry" proves quite watchable… although I can't bring myself to call it good. So let's just say it was not as bad as I expected it to be.

Companion viewing: "Constantine," "The Matrix," "Devil's Advocate," "Shoot 'Em Up"

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