Drive Angry is one of those delightfully tasteless movies that turns dumb, gross fun into true artistry. This horror flick is like the three-headed devil child of David Lynch and Rob Zombie - it was crafted with loving care by film nerds who love exploitation movies, and every blood-soaked minute is pure, unhinged awesomeness.
Our hero John Milton (Nic Cage) is a man who has escaped the pit of Hell with only a giant gun and a muscle car. He's on a mission to rescue his infant granddaughter, who was kidnapped by an evil Satanist named Jonah King (Billy Burke) - the kind of guy who wears silk shirts unbuttoned to his navel, drives a black van with flames on the side, and says stuff like, "I'm going to kill you and then I'm going to defile your corpse." The best part is that you don't even need to be wasted to enjoy this movie - it will actually get you wasted on its own. Spoilers ahead!
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I saw this movie after smoking three-quarters of a joint, but as soon as I saw the first psychotic, burning car chase - in 3D! - I realized that medication was entirely unnecessary.
A Note On The 3D
This was actually the first movie I've seen since Avatar, and possibly the most recent Resident Evil flick, that actually justified its use of 3D. I think probably because Drive Angry was so unabashedly cheesy, it felt right to be enjoying it via the most gimmicky, silly fad in movie-making today. Plus, there are several trippy devil worship sequences where people's spooky, chanting faces are layered over scenes of human sacrifice - and it really works in 3D. Yes it looks completely goofy, but that's the point.
And of course, having a bloody skull zoom toward your face out of the screen is always welcome. In future, only grindhouse and exploitation flicks should be allowed to do 3D.
Even the devil is annoyed by your devil worship
One of the hilarious tropes in Drive Angry is that Milton is being pursued by this fussy guy in a suit named the Accountant, who has been dispatched by Lucifer to bring the badass escapee back to the pit. When the Accountant realizes that Milton is pursuing Jonah and the Satanic cultists, he starts investigating the group himself. Arriving in one of their churches after Milton has shot the shit out of everybody, the Accountant tortures one of the dying worshipers into telling him what's going on.
"We have a pact with the devil," the guy finally confesses.
"Pact, huh?" the Accountant sniffs. "Funny, he's never mentioned you."
I love the idea of a movie where the devil worshipers are like lame groupies who think they have a personal relationship with Satan, but in fact they don't. This is just one of the many clever touches in Drive Angry, which will constantly surprise you with its lowbrow inventiveness.
Let's see how fucked up we can get!
For people like me who love over-the-top movies like Drive Angry, "awesomeness" is measured in how far the filmmakers are willing to go into the realm of crass fuckeduppery. Previous winners in this category include movies like Hostel, Crank, and Doomsday. And now you can add Drive Angry to the list of movies that aren't afraid to go all the way.
I have never seen a gunfight between a man unleashed from hell and devil worshipers, while said man is simultaneously having sex with a woman and drinking Jack Daniels. Yes, there is actually a scene where this happens in Drive Angry, and it's possibly the most badass thing I have ever witnessed. Nic Cage is humping his lady friend, shooting with one hand, and swigging from the bottle with his other.
Later Milton refuses to drink a beer "unless I'm drinking it from Jonah King's skull." Which - and I hope this isn't too much of a spoiler for you - he later DOES. In a scene so good it could almost have been in Army of Darkness. Yes, this movie is THAT good.
It's also got a great sense of style. The muscle cars are terrific (find out what Nic Cage told io9 last year about why cars and the devil go together). And Billy Burke does an especially zestful job bringing Jonah King to life as a 70s-retro cult leader, complete with rayon shirts and smoochy-lip blood licking during the Satanic ritual sequences. Plus, you've gotta love a movie where Jonah's followers celebrate the dark lord by stripping, drinking, dancing, shooting guns and eating barbecue. They even store their guns in a cooler next to the booze.
Hell already walks the Earth
Like the show Supernatural, the premise of this movie is that hellish forces are among us all the time, and it takes a badass like Milton to deal with them. Luckily, he also finds a sidekick who is as badass as he is - a woman named Piper who has a taste for muscle cars and can punch like a dude in a barfight. She's the kind of gal who sings along to Peaches' song "Fuck the Pain Away" (did I mention the great soundtrack in this movie?), then picks up guys in bars and forces them to paint her toenails before deciding whether to have sex with them.
She's a thoroughly likable character, a bastard with a heart of gold just like Milton, and watching her take on what she calls "those fucking devil worshipers" is one of the best parts of the movie.
Drive Angry offers a terrifically interesting interpretation of Hell, which I won't spoil for you - but suffice to say that it involves live streaming video. It also involves a strong sense of justice, which puts a real Johnny Cash mournfulness at the black heart of this messed-up tale of Southern religion gone wrong.
If you like cult movies, exploitation flicks, or just good, grossout fun, you need to check out Drive Angry this weekend. It's always great to watch a movie succeed, even (and perhaps especially) if its goal is to make your eyes bleed while you wallow happily in filth.