That isn't to say it isn't without exploitative merit. For starters, this might be one of the better stupid premises for any movie in a good long while. Nicolas Cage, fresh off his latest stint as a morose, tortured, scraggly-haired misfit plays a morose, tortured, scraggly-haired misfit named John Milton; pay attention to that name as I describe Milton's flight from Hell. Literally. He literally drives a Detroit muscle car straight out of Hell. One can only assume this means Satan buys American. That ought to seriously conflict the residents of the Rustbelt.
Billy Burke. Burke has also kidnapped Milton's infant granddaughter, with the intent of sacrificing the child and bringing about the typical apocalypse--the one where the cultist and his followers engage in nonstop Caligulan orgies and hang with Lucifer like they're starring in some kind of Satanic Entourage.
Milton is aided by Amber Heard's Piper, a saucy diner waitress who just happens to drive a Dodge Challenger, and thus becomes useful when Milton needs to get to Louisiana and make sure this baby killing thing doesn't go down. He's also got Hell's bounty hunter on his tail, a dapper looking demon known only as The Accountant, played by William Fichtner. Milton chases the Satanists, Satan chases him, and somewhere in the middle, a lot of shit blows up.
Again, fantastic premise, and one that occasionally shows flashes of similar brilliance in its execution. Lussier has an innate understanding of absurdity, and gleefully revels in flinging bare-breasted blasts of blood and bullets at the audience as often as humanly possible. He redlines the on-screen insanity with great constancy; occasionally doing so while lifting ideas from other over-the-top action flicks. Maybe it's coincidental. Maybe not. All I know is, this is not the first time I've seen someone fornicate during the course of a gun battle.
Casting Cage as Hell's most wanted seems like a minor stroke of genius on paper, given his proclivities toward scenery-swallowing performances of the utmost pedigree. Milton is simultaneously an avenging angel and demonic dirtbag. He's equal parts The Crow, Constantine and Kowalski, a role that seems tailor-made for Cage and his brand of unhinged awesomeness. Sad, then, that Cage remains restrained throughout the bulk of Drive Angry. His anger is more of the seething, silent type, a kind of southern-fried stoicism that just doesn't feel very Cageian. Picture him in Con Air, but with less majestic hair, less drawl, and a more pervasively murderous glint in his eye. At the very least, Cage gives some good, memorable one-liners in his typically unpredictable way--I don't think I've ever heard anyone so lustily describe the act of drinking beer out of another man's skull.
Walken-esque." He's equally bureaucratic and homicidal, hunting his prey with a penchant for obliterating automobiles and assholes with equal levels of aplomb. Fichtner doesn't so much occupy scenes as he does stake his claim to them, planting a flag of ridiculousness that leaves no room for question as to who is having the most fun in this stupid, stupid movie.
There is unquestionably fun to be had with Drive Angry--whether it's the kind of fun you can actually appreciate rests entirely on your fondness for the seedier side of cinema, and whether or not you can deal with how ludicrously hard Lussier tries to make his movie look effortlessly cool. It's one thing to celebrate bouncing boobs, shotgun blasts and exploding everything, but Lussier constructs Drive Angry like a missive on why those things are awesome. This makes it well-suited to adolescent boys still in that stage of wide-eyed discovery, as they uncover movies that cater to their recently discovered proclivities for naked ladies and fire. And for those of us who already went on our journey of lurid cinematic discovery? It's like being accosted by an overly excited teenager who wants to tell you at great length how awesome dudes in sunglasses with pump-action shotguns are. You agree, but at a point, you also wish they'd shut up.