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Drive Angry 3D is the sort of movie that makes you sit up and cackle with delight at its symphony of slaughter. There’s a poetry to the unfolding violence that falls in line with the work of the main character’s namesake, John Milton. Like Paradise Lost, Hell and the march of Satan’s armies is at the forefront of the story. There’s no time for epic verse, however. This is more like epic versus. Just one man kicking ass with a great big shotgun.
It’s the sort of action role that star Nicolas Cage was born to play. His Milton is a weary traveler with a giant chip on his shoulder and designs on exacting bloody revenge. The short version is: a Satanic cult leader (Billy Burke) killed Milton’s daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter for a ritual sacrifice. Now the grieving dad is out for revenge and not even Hell is going to stand in his way. Quite literally. Cage plays it perfectly, too, channeling some of his best mid-’90s action performances in over-the-top scenes and delivering tough-guy one-liners.
Along for the ride is Piper (Amber Heard), a small-town waitress who takes her life back with a swift kick to her abusive boyfriend’s head (Todd Farmer), speeding off with his 1969 Dodge Charger in the process. Heard pairs well with Cage’s cool killer, an ass-kicking emotional sounding board that lets the story’s heart be heard.
An equally strong supporting cast keeps things moving, particularly Bill Fichtner’s Accountant, a smooth-talking G-man with superhuman strength and plenty of time on his hands. Fichtner plays it very cool, and is a total highlight. There’s plenty of action, but when things slow down for the story to unfold, he certainly keeps things interesting.
The same goes for David Morse in his quick few scenes. We’re clobbered with important exposition while he’s on screen, and hearing it from Morse makes everything better. And Billy Burke is unimaginably creepy as a down-home Southern Satanist and cult leader with claw-like fingernails and a friendly drawl that belies his evil intent.
My Bloody Valentine 3D writer/director duo Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier re-team for what amounts to a Hell-bent neo-Western. Horses become muscle cars and cowboys fire at a higher caliber, but the result is the same: over-the-top set piece after over-the-top set piece, all enhanced with the sort of 3D that makes you remember why the format was invented in the first place.
It’s like Lussier discovered 3D cameras yesterday, an excited child with a new toy. The gimmick is alive and well; everything from bullets to limbs to balls of fire are thrown into your face, though it never feels gimmicky. Lussier and Farmer take the lessons learned from Valentine, employing the effect in just the right places. They’re every bit as creatively forward-thinking in their use of 3D as James Cameron was with Avatar, especially in the way Milton’s flashbacks are presented. For all of its exploitative appeal, some real thought went into building Drive Angry 3D’s elaborate visual feast.
This isn’t the sort of movie that wins Oscars. It runs you down beneath 440-horsepower of rubber and steel then shoots every exposed limb until it’s bloody, and you’re asking for more the whole time. It’s the rare movie that throws a man’s severed hand into your face and dares you to laugh hysterically, expects it even. In the first five minutes. It can all be summed up in one word: fun. Drive Angry 3D is fun, and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.
Drive Angry 3D opens today nationwide.