'Drive Angry 3D': Nicolas Cage and rage running on empty
No one drives angrily in "Drive Angry 3D,'' Nicolas Cage's latest spin through "Ghost Rider'' territory. In fact, "Drive Trashy'' would be a more accurate title for the first 45 minutes of this gore-spurting, sex-flaunting romp. And that's the good part.
Cage's taciturn character introduces himself as Milton, as in the author of "Paradise Lost," and squeals into the story to the strains of Trooper's "Raise a Little Hell." (AC/DC's "Highway to Hell'' must have been too expensive.)
He's just busted out of somewhere - you'll figure it out way before the movie tells you - to rescue his infant granddaughter.
The baby is in the clutches of the satanic sect that's already killed her parents, Milton's daughter and son-in-law. The cult's Jim Jones-like leader, Jonah King (Billy Burke), intends to sacrifice the child under the upcoming full moon. This will usher in an age of "hell on Earth."
If that sounds bad, the movie's Middle America already looks like Satan's handiwork. Nearly everyone in this land of seedy motels, crummy diners and shaky Southern accents is a thug, a lecher or both. Even Milton's chosen companion, a Colorado diner waitress, is a piece of work. Piper (Amber Heard) may look like an angel, but her language could strip paint, and she clobbers her fiance when she finds him in bed with another woman. (Incredibly, this is not the film's most flamboyant instance of coitus interruptus.)
Piper commandeers her now-ex-fiance's '69 Charger and gives Milton a ride. Soon, they're partners in anti-cult combat, chasing King and his brainwashed minions. They, in turn, are pursued by the Accountant (William Fichtner), whose buttoned-down cool could be called supernatural. The Accountant is not Milton's ally, but he does sometimes betray sympathy for the man and his quest.
While "Drive Angry" is getting up to speed, director Patrick Lussier stuffs it with amusingly tasteless set pieces. Assisted by a Peaches tune with an unprintable title, the movie is gleefully obscene and exuberantly violent. The flashiest 3-D effects involve propelling sharp objects directly at the audience, and one woozy flashback includes the (off-camera) severing of a male body part.
Even at its most lurid, though, the movie is a little dull. And it only gets less compelling as the back story fills in, Amber becomes a bland helpmate and Milton unpacks his supply of video-game-style weapons. Also, the film's second half includes scenes that aspire to sincerity and ones that require Cage to utter more than one sentence at a time - both very bad ideas.
A note to car buffs: "Drive Angry'' features two other classic automobiles, in addition to the Charger. But this is not a movie for people who love cars; it's a movie for people who love to see cars blow up.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
Drive Angry rr (104 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for brutal violence, grisly images, graphic sexual content, nudity and profanity.