Hey, folks. Capone in Chicago here.
Second only to James Cameron, Patrick Lussier is my favorite director working with 3D. While so many other directors making 3D films in the last couple years made a point to say, "We aren't throwing things at the camera" and "We don't want this to be a gimmick," Lussier opted for a different approach. He took a fairly shitty '80s slasher film, spruced it up, and made the absolutely glorious MY BLOODY VALENTINE, which came out at the beginning of 2009 and said to its audience, "Hey, we've got about 50 pointy objects we'd like to throw right at your head. Care to join us?" Lussier threw in some tasteful full-frontal nudity, a nice supporting role for the legendary Tom Atkins, and a metric shit-ton of blood and guts, and MY BLOODY VALENTINE turned a decent profit because it remembered to be entertaining.
His latest work (which I saw at Butt Numb-a-Thon a couple weeks back and promise to bring an early screening of it to Chicago very soon…sooner than that) uses the same 3D formula with an original story and an overwhelming number of fantastic car chases and wrecks. Like VALENTINE, DRIVE ANGRY was shot in 3D, a fact that Lussier makes abundantly clear (in the original posters, the "Shot In 3D" tagline was in the same size font as the film's title). But making a film in 3D is not enough of a reason to see any movie. No, the real and true reason you want to see DRIVE ANGRY in any dimension is the magnificent William Fichtner as a character known only as The Accountant.
I'm taking nothing away from Nicolas Cage's Milton, a man who has escaped from hell (literally) to save the life of his newborn granddaughter from the clutches of a satanic cult run by Billy Burke, who killed Milton's daughter, an event that triggered Milton's return. Okay, I'm going to take a little away from Burke's performance because he just isn't that scary, especially next to Cage and Fichtner. I saw guys in the bathroom during BNAT scarier than Burke. Dude, you play Bella's father in the TWILIGHT movies; you ain't scaring nobody. A soul patch does not a villain make. Fortunately, Burke isn't in the movie that much. The true badass creep factor goes to Mr. Fichtner, one of the true reigning champions of awesome.
What I liked about The Accountant is that his motives and true intentions are a little obtuse. At first, we assume he's been brought out of hell to capture Milton and drag him back. But as the film goes on and more bad guys die (thus, upping hell's population by a few souls), The Accountant seems more intent on simply keeping an eye on Milton until his mission is complete. Fichtner has all the best lines, the best clothes, the best quirks and ticks, and access to some fine weapons and vehicles. In case you didn't notice from the trailer, nearly every character in DRIVE ANGRY is obsessed with muscle cars, and if you are as well, you may want to avert your sensitive eyes as, one after another, these beautiful creatures are destroyed in epic fashion.
Also on hand is a beautiful waitress named Piper (Amber Heard), who, at first, seems like she isn't going to contribute anything to DRIVE ANGRY beyond a nice pair of legs in Daisy Duke shorts and a pretty face. But Heard steps up to meet the adventurous and edgy qualities of the rest of the cast and delivers what is easily her best performance since ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE. In fact, by the end of the movie, it's clear that Piper provides the earthy heart and soul of a story that might have otherwise gotten buried in twisted metal, hellfire, and testosterone overload. Not that there aren't plenty of explosions, cars flying through the air, and loads of gratuitous nudity (not Heard) to keep you. amused. Throw in a couple of nice supporting performances by David Morse and "Eastbound and Down's" Katy Mixon, as well as the return of writer Todd Farmer's naked ass, and you have yourself one hell of a fine movie.
I haven't talked much about Cage, and that's because his performance is the one I need to examine with a repeat viewing. Milton is a bit of a mystery. Was he an ordinary man who simply got pulled down to hell because of some bad deeds in his past? We don't know. Or is he something the devil holds in high regard for reasons we never know? I loved that Milton's history isn't spelled out and that Cage plays him as something of a blank slate. We know that he loves his daughter enough to want to avenge her brutal murder, and that's enough to get us through DRIVE ANGRY. He clearly sees Piper as something of an adopted daughter who he seems bent on protecting in a way he couldn't with his own little. I sometimes wish we'd seen a little more of the wacky Cage, but then I always wish that, and it probably wouldn't have been appropriate for this character.
Clearly these numerous unanswered question could be wonderfully answered in a sequel, or better yet a prequel showing some of Milton's hell-worthy antics prior to dying…the first time. And I would welcome such a film but only after Lussier or some other worthy stand-in makes a movie simply called THE ACCOUNTANT. Trust me, after you see DRIVE ANGRY, that's the movie you'll want to see next. If those satanic cult members knew anything about anything, they would be hailing the glory of William Fichtner. I know I do every single day.
One of the only worthy entries in this current wave of 3D, DRIVE ANGRY opens February 25, and you have no choice but to see it or be sent to movie hell, where YOGI BEAR, LITTLE FOCKERS, and GULLIVER'S TRAVELS are playing on a never-ending, triple-bill loop. You've been warned. And for those of you in Chicago, pay particular attention to the site next week regarding…well, just keep your eyes open.
-- Capone firstname.lastname@example.org
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