Nic Cage: Convict from Hell

March 3, 2011

The trailer for Drive Angry 3D proudly and brazenly plugs one of the more ridiculous plots in recent cinematic history—Nicolas Cage breaks out of hell and fights with a vengeance to save his infant granddaughter from a murderous biker cult. With an almost self-parodying premise (and grammatically questionable title), you might expect a certain level of self-aware schlock.

For the first 10 minutes, it seems to have just that—you’re poised to make a two-hour descent into the guiltiest B-movie pleasure ever, as a hard-eyed Cage chases and dispatches three unknown evildoers. Cars blow up, cheesy dialogue is exchanged, and disembodied, three-dimensional limbs fly out of the screen straight at the viewer. However, despite similar moments of fun interspersed throughout the film, Drive Angry can’t sustain the promising energy of its opening.

Cage stars as Milton (get it?), a deceased felon who has broken out of hell after learning his daughter has been murdered by cult leader Jonah King (William Burke). Pursued by Satan’s “accountant” (William Fichtner), Milton teams up with unemployed waitress Piper (Amber Heard) to prevent the cult from sacrificing his granddaughter at the full moon.

It’s not Cage’s fault that the film lags. He is clearly having the time of his life playing such a ridiculous role, relying on his customary and oddly appealing mix of deadpan delivery and unexpected injections of ham. Fichtner is amusingly creepy as the accountant, and Burke’s over-the-top southern drawl and cult-leader charisma steal every scene that he’s in. The only problematic deficiency in acting comes from poor Heard, who cannot overact to the same level of absurdity as her co-stars, leaving her performance buried under heaps of outlandishness.

Unfortunately, the film blows through nearly all of its most entertaining moments in the first half of its 104 minutes, falling far below its potential for entertainment. Cage guns down a half-dozen assailants in a hotel room while remaining in coitus with a hooker (really), he fires magic bullets at his underworld pursuer, and he shoots up a church full of cult members—all good stuff, but it becomes hard to sustain that energy. The film’s second act is surprisingly devoid of such moments, replaced instead with needless exposition and a lot of boring, angry driving. The few action sequences that do occur, like a showdown with a group of pursuing policemen, aren’t enough to keep up momentum.

So while Drive Angry has plenty of individually titillating moments, they don’t make up for the points at which the film plods. It just goes to show that anything can become boring, even an undead Nic Cage going on shooting sprees and sexcapades—at the same time.

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