John Bruni reviews Drive Angry

Drive Angry 105 min., 2011
Written by Todd Farmer/Patrick Lussier
Directed by Patrick Lussier
Language: English
My rating: ★★

A great idea sullied by such an awful execution….

* * *

Imagine: one of the damned, unapologetically named John Milton, escapes from Hell so he can avenge the death of his daughter, and so he can save his granddaughter from being sacrificed by a Satanic cult lead by a psychopathic maniac. The whole time, a demon bounty hunter by the name of the Accountant is after him, trying to even the books out for Hell. Hardboiled action and sex ensue. Sounds like a cool idea, almost like a thematic sequel to William Hjortsberg’s FALLEN ANGEL.

Here’s the problem: Patrick Lussier doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing. As director and co-writer (along with Todd Farmer), he’s at a loss as to how to make this fascinating, hardcore horror/crime tale work. It’s so excessive, hyper-sexed and ultraviolent, it would make Lars von Trier do a spit-take. And it doesn’t help that they’ve hired ham-master Nicolas Cage to play the main character.

For the record, Cage is not a bad actor. He’s just made a lot of bad decisions of late (probably due to his tax problems). Every once in a while, he latches onto a role perfect for his talents, like RAISING ARIZONA. Like MATCHSTICK MEN. Like ADAPTATION. Even weird exercises in insanity like KICK ASS and BAD LIEUTENANT 2 are perfect vehicles for his abilities. But think about this: he was also the lead in GHOST RIDER. When that movie came out, Marvel released a miniseries penned by Garth Ennis about how that “superhero” broke out of Hell and tried to escape from the attention of various bounty hunters from Hell. Sound familiar?

Possible plagiarism aside, this movie has a lot going wrong for it. First of all, the stupid title has no reason to exist aside from the fact that the heroine, Piper, has a license plate that says “DRV AGRY.” (It also has a bumper sticker that says, “I brake for pussy,” which would have made a much better title.) And it seems almost unfair to mention the scene in the diner, where an oversexed waitress practically begs Milton for sex, even though they’ve barely even met. The most ridiculous part is when Milton grabs her by the throat and “forces” a kiss on her before complaining that she forgot to bring him sugar for his coffee.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The Accountant has a coin trick that is showy and absolutely worthless. He takes an ancient coin out of his pocket, flips it, and when he catches it, it turns into an FBI badge. What exactly is the point of all these theatrics? Just to look cool? Oh, and the coin can kill people if thrown at them? We didn’t steal enough from Ghost Rider, so now we’re stealing from Daredevil? (ie. Bullseye.)

Speaking of things done just to look cool, almost all of the violence is done in superbad CGI. From a bad guy getting his hand blown off by a shotgun blast to one of the villains getting blown up so badly that all that remains is his computer generated jawbone, it’s all bullshit. There is even a scene where Milton fires his gun repeatedly, only to have the camera track each individual CGI bullet as they pop out of the gun and come directly at the viewer (this movie was originally produced in 3D).

But the absolute epitome of excessiveness comes from the most ridiculous sex scene ever put to film. Milton picks up a waitress from a honky tonk and fucks her in his motel room…and he’s fully dressed while wearing sunglasses. “Move it! Move that cock!” she cries as he ruthlessly, stoically fucks her. Then, the bad guys break in, bent on destroying Milton. Guess what happens? Dick still inside of her, chomping on a cigar, one hand holding a bottle of Jack Daniel’s while the other clutches a gun, he starts gunning these guys down. He kills off a half-dozen guys before running out of bullets, at which point he takes a drink, fucks the girl some more, and guns down the rest of the bad guys.

Not only are such things unrealistic, but there is a lot about this movie that just doesn’t make sense. For instance, it starts out being narrated by someone. It’s hard to figure out who, but it’s probably the Accountant. Still, we never come back to this narration. Even if we did, it still wouldn’t make sense because we learn that the Accountant doesn’t know everything. He has to ask the cultists why they’re after Milton in the first place. This implies that since he couldn’t know everything, he can’t properly narrate the story. So why have him introduce the movie in the first place?

Also, near the end Milton and Piper are confronted by a group of cops who have no way of knowing anything about them. How did they get tipped off as to where they were headed so the main characters could be intercepted in the first place?

As the multitude of cops wait for the car they have no idea as to how to identify, the chief says to aim for their tires. He clarifies by saying that when he’s talking about tires, he means their heads. This joke, bad by anyone’s standards, continues to be overexplained
in the next several minutes.

But this movie isn’t an entire loss. There are some pretty good moments. When a naked woman gets the shit kicked out of her and winds up passed out on the street, a random fat guy wanders by and takes her picture with a cell phone. When Piper is trying to beat the daylights out of her cheating boyfriend, she tells him, “I’m gonna’ tell everyone what I caught you doing with my pink dildo.” And the Accountant winds up killing said boyfriend with a baseball bat…but not the way you think he would.

Speaking of the Accountant, there’s a scene where he gets knocked off a bridge by Milton, and his expression is just so…BORED as he waits for the ride to end so he can continue his chase. But the weed smokers who find him are pretty lame, as is the Accountant’s attempt to be Leland Gaunt afterward.

Still, there is one scene where Milton says to his old friend, played by David Morse, “I don’t believe I’ll be having that beer right now…not unless I’m drinking it from Jonah King’s skull.” King is the Satan-worshipping scumbag who killed Milton’s daughter (and carries her femur bone as a staff), and SPOILER ALERT: Milton gets his wish! END SPOILERS.

And did you know that Satan is quiet, thoughtful and wide-read? And he disapproves of child sacrifice in his name? And the Accountant really likes K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Weird.

But it’s still pretty cool to see Nicholas Cage get shot in the face. And the scene where his eye grows back is pretty cool.

So watching this movie won’t be an entire waste of time. You’ll probably hate yourself for surrendering more than an hour and a half of your time to this movie, but you won’t go completely unrewarded. While there is a lot of stupid shit going on here, there is just BARELY enough to keep your interest.

But you’ll never want to admit that in public, not even to the closest of your friends.

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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