06 May 2022

52 for '22: Drive Angry

MovieDrive Angry (2011)
Method: Peacock

Why Did I watch this?
This is obviously in poor taste, but hey, this is Norwegian Morning Wood here. I was totally trying to think back to what the movie was where Amber Heard and Johnny Depp met and for some reason only Drive Angry stuck out in my mind. I goofed up – obviously this is a Nic Cage movie! I knew that. But then I thought, hey this is basically Nic Cage week, and this is a sincere gap in my Cage knowledge! So it obviously worked out perfectly.
What Did I know ahead of time?
I knew the premise, that Cage plays a guy who escaped from Hell to save his daughter or something and it starred Amber Heard as not his daughter but someone else. I also knew that this was not well received at all. It also involved a car. I think I had seen it parts of it at some point, and had definitely been excited at maximum Cage.
How Was It?
Dude, this was pretty good. I mean, that’s all relative, but the action here was really heightened, as was the sex, gore, violence, fuck words, all that good stuff. At one point Nic Cage has a shoot out with the bad guys while in mid-coitus. That just sums up what this film is. Lots of titties, lots of hands and legs being blown off, lots of people getting ran over by cars. Nic Cage’s car is on fire constantly, it’s just that kind of movie.
And sure, this is going to turn off some people, and to an extent this becomes a little too much edge and trying too hard. It feels a lot like the most 2011 movie ever, which is fun to examine. It’s right on the precipice of Cage becoming a parody of himself, full of dodgy CGI, acting that doesn’t quite know if it should take itself seriously or not, and a lot of unsatisfying action, as much as we do like a mid-fuck shoot out.
Really the biggest issue is tone. Nic Cage plays it very very straight. William Fichtner knows what kind of movie he’s in, as he hams it up as the Accountant from Hell who is looking to bring the escaped Cage back to his cage. There is some truly terrible compositing work in the scene when he drives a hydrogen truck through a police barricade, but him singing, dancing, and not caring about anything is what this movie needed to be. There is a really tragic daughter-lost-to-a-cult backstory at the heart of this, and I get the intention was to demonstrate the stakes, but it’s a bit too serious for what this film ultimately is, which is just pulp nonsense.
Amber Heard holds her own, but her importance in the story diminishes as it moves forward. There is also a lengthy bit of domestic violence early on with her and her boyfriend. Oof. But, and it’s weird to say, this is really what made her a movie star and not just the girlfriend in Pineapple Express (2008) and Zombieland (2009).
The guy who plays the cult leader is okay, I kept thinking that role should have been Walton Goggins, but maybe he’s just the only southern actor I think of these days. It may have been before his time, too. There is some heinous malarkey going on in that cult, and it’s pretty fun.
There is definitely some nebulous stuff like how Nic Cage escaped from hell, and he can exactly be injured or not, but I actually prefer the lack of an explanation for all that. It provides way better mystique, although it also creates a distance from the character that we never really recover from. He maybe needed to be a little more swinging and energetic for us to get a good feel for him.
Like I said, this gets a lot into the “save my daughter!” trope that all old man movies seem to follow, even The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022), although I still like to think that was on purpose as a parody of lesser films like this one. But this is more fun than it deserves to be and worth watching for Cage completionists, especially those trying to decipher how he went from blockbusters to B-movies.
Check out more 52 for '22 right here!

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