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Non-Review Review: Drive Angry

I really liked Drive Angry, which feels like cinematic junk food. It’s not especially well-made, it’s not good for you, but damn if it isn’t just a little bit tasty. It’s not art, it won’t make you think, and it isn’t going to appear on too many “best of”lists. However, it’s the dirtiest, trashiest, most ridiculously over-the-top adventure that I’ve seen in quite some time. It might have felt like the engine was going to pull right out of the body, but it was a heck of a ride.

When you Cage the Beast, the Beast gets angry...

I think I know why I am so fond of it, even though I know – deep down – I probably shouldn’t be. I’m a sucker for a trashy sort of American Gothic Southern gun-slinging fairytale, a biblical conflict played against the harsh and dry small-town backdrop of the Bible Belt. It’s the kinda place where devils mingle freely with truckers, preachers rub shoulders with monsters dressed in human skin, and primal forces are at play in the darker corner of the sun-drenched screen.

It’s a type of setting that lends itself to some sort of crazy cross between a pseudo-religious thriller and jail-break car chase movie. It’s a place that’s eerie and strange, even though everything looks almost alike. I’ve had a fondness for tales set against this sort of scenery, and it’s something that is much harder than it looks. Pulp horror thrillers are perhaps the cheesiest and most exploitational genre you could imagine, and it takes a considerable amount of skill to pull it off. Consider the way that films like Legion and The Last Exorcism attempted to offer stories of the biblical gothic South to no real success.

Super smashing great...

Just think about the basic plot, and consider the number of potential ways it could come off the tracks. The movie is about John Milton, a man who claims to have escaped from prison to save his granddaughter from some Satan-worshippers, while being pursued by a mysterious and sinister figure who calls himself “The Accountant.” There’s already a whole host of clichés and expectations thrown into the mix, and any number of variables. It’s a simple set-up, but it’s one that relies completely on execution to make a success or failure of it.

Personally, I think I embraced the film when I heard the soundtrack. It’s a movie which gives us tonnes of car chases, and a surreal psychotic who drives a trunk full of hydrogen (“the fuel of the future”) into the midst of a police blockade, while listening (and shoulder-bopping) to That’s The Way (aha aha) I Like It. Fully aware of the clichés, the movie even closes with a Meatloaf song, although not necessarily the one you might have expected. The people making the movie are having fun, and it’s quite hard to resist that on-screen, I think.

Just to skull-cap it all off...

The movie takes that sort of American gothic mentality that one expects from Southern Horror and just amps up both the sex and the violence to the most ridiculous degree possible – particularly one scene which had me unsure whether to laugh at the absurdity or wring my hands at the sheer ridiculousness. There’s going to be lots of people who find the movie to be “too much”“too cheesy”, “too vulgar”, “too ridiculous” or “too crass” – and I can understand that. I can certainly feel it. However, to me, that’s part of the appeal.

Drive Angry never pretends to be anything other than what it actually is, a high-octane trashy road movie with an absurd amount of sex and violence and some interesting satanic overtures. Some people will find that, of itself, a fairly massive turn-off. Personally, I think that the movie would have stunk if it played its hand entirely seriously. There’s a wry self-awareness as the movie goes over-the-top again and again and again. In fact, I really like the way the film combines the jail break plot with the satanic worshipping plot. I think that the depiction of Lucifer offered here might be one of the more interesting examples in recent cinema, and the guy doesn’t even appear on-screen.

Somebody's going to be held to account for this...

The only real complaint I have is the fact that the 3D is a little gimmicky. I watched the movie in 2D and could immediately spot the augmented scenes designed to play off 3D technology. I actually imagine (and this is coming from a 3D skeptic) that the movie might have been charming in 3D, but I found the somewhat awkward compositions of certain shots to take advantage of 3D didn’t really work in the 2D mode. Still, that’s probably as much a problem with how I watched the film as opposed to the itself.

I enjoyed it. It’s not a big film, or an important film, but it’s a fun one. It’s a movie with no delusions of grandeur, just designed to play to the kinda people who like a sort of a trashy horror vibe in their car chase thrillers. This is the movie that Ghost Rider should have been.

2 Responses

  1. Ahaha I’m on the same boat, I quite liked Drive Angry. It’s a fun and trashy movie that’s relatively well-executed. Fitchner is quite the underrated actor I think.

    • I think I fell in love with him during Heat. His cameo in The Dark Knight was legitimately one of the high points of one of the best premieres I have ever attended.

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