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Nicolas Cage has made a career out of jumping the proverbial shark only to then turn in a scene-stealing Oscar-worthy performance in his next film. For every Leaving Las Vegas there is a Wicker Man. For every Bringing Out the Dead there is a Stolen. And then there’s Drive Angry. I’m not entirely sure the exact point at which I arrived at the realization that human existence as we know it is insignificant and ultimately futile, but I’m fairly sure it was around the time that Cage’s character is having sex with a hooker and is suddenly attacked by several armed thugs. Rather than uncoupling himself and dealing with his assailants, he decides the best course of action is to simultaneously continue with his copulation and dispatch the vicious villains. Yes, it’s that kind of film.
Cage aficionados will be aware that in his lengthy and diverse oeuvre, Nic has played Ghost Rider, an undead supernatural antihero who battles satanic forces of evil. This is totally dissimilar to Drive Angry of course where he plays an undead supernatural antihero battling satanic forces of evil. Cage plays the rather predictably monikered John Milton, an undead criminal who has somehow managed to pull off the most impressive jailbreak of all time and escape from Hell.
Unsurprisingly, the Devil turns out to be unhappy with this lapse in underworld security and dispatches one of his infernal lieutenants, the Accountant (yes, really), to apprehend the rogue escapee before he inflicts any further reputational damage. Milton is on a vendetta drive; the main thrust of the film is around his plan to kill Jonah King, a cult leader who is planning on sacrificing Milton’s granddaughter in part of an elaborate ritual. So far, so gory.
Into this unholy mix comes Amber Heard who plays Piper, a jaded waitress who returns home from work to find her boyfriend having sex with another woman. Yes, there is a lot of coitus interruptus in this film. A melee between Piper, her boyfriend and the other woman ensues which is eventually broken up by Milton who pummels the boyfriend. Piper, thrilled by this show of violent chivalry agrees to join Milton on his quest. If all of the above sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same way in which Dr Who met his first assistant.
Milton and Piper spend the rest of the film driving around in a big muscle car slaughtering King’s henchmen and trying their damndest to avoid the Accountant, the feds and local law enforcement. Along the way, Piper realises that she prefers hunting down child-sacrificing sociopaths to waitressing and hands in her notice at the diner. The Accountant realises that Milton is trying to save his granddaughter and pledges to help him as it turns out that Satan isn’t actually that bad a bloke and has a strict no-sacrifice policy. The audience realises that there really was no need for this film to be made in 3-D.
Drive Angry is graceless, tasteless and artless. It tries to salvage some brownie points by being tongue in cheek in an Evil Dead kind of way, but ultimately tries too hard to be the perfect supernatural comedy vehicle for Cage. As for the man himself, he doesn’t so much phone in his performance as take a naked selfie and text it in. In turns manic, bored, frenzied and laconic, Cage still manages to captivate, confound and confuse in equal measure. Unlike other established stars in the twilight of their careers who are happy to take the money and perform on autopilot, there is never anything less than borderline insane commitment from Cage which, sadly, isn’t enough on its own sometimes. After this one, Nic, you owe us at least two good ‘uns.