Drive Angry is the very definition of a guilty pleasure and benefits from an enjoyably oddball streak of gallows humour. As oddball as star Nicholas Cage’s hair. In fact, Cage’s very casting – that strange, droning, monolithic presence catastrophic to some productions and invaluable to others – seems itself to be a tongue in cheek move, but one wishes the limelight was taken by co-star William Fichtner, stealing scenes right to the very end.
As it happens, he’s merely part of the wider picture: a piece of sleazy, gratuitous exploitation trash that sensibly never pretends to be anything other than sleazy and gratuitous. People get shot in the face; girls lean over muscle cars in denim shorts; Twilight’s Billy Burke plays a loony mad Satanist; and residing over it all is that one-of-a-kind presence, Cage himself, follicles now threatening to reach Bill Bailey-esque proportions.
Narrative coherency isn’t exactly the point, but the connect the dots plot is basically an excuse for Cage to escape from hell (not bargain basement hell we hope, judging by some of his recent output), put the pedal to the metal and charge around the American deep south slaughtering anyone connected with the death of his daughter and the kidnapping of her baby.
Amber Heard is the totty in said shorts; David Morse is shamefully underused as an old buddy of Cage’s; and some roaring muscle cars threaten to out-act the human performers. Except that is for Fichtner, who, as the sharp-suited accountant from hell (literally) sent to bring Cage back, devours as much scenery as the latest cacophonous explosion. The film really hits a strange groove whenever he’s on screen, making one wish he had his own vehicle. The film is nothing more than adolescent, juvenile nonsense (although entertaining with it), but Fichnter seems to be on a completely different page entirely.
Truthfully the ethos of the piece can be summed up in one line from Burke’s hissing villain: “I’m going to kill you and then defile your corpse.” If that goes against your better impulses and makes you guffaw for all the wrong reasons, then you’re on the same page as the movie. Otherwise steer well clear.