By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Patrick Lussier
STARS Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard
Nicolas Cage's hilarious, split-second cameo as Fu Manchu in Grindhouse's Werewolf Women of the SS faux trailer must have whetted the actor's appetite for headlining feature-length throwbacks to the disreputable fare of yore, as evidenced by many of the movies he's accepted over the last few years. Despite its high-gloss 3-D presentation, Drive Angry is the most obvious example of his commitment, given its penchant for fast cars, hot women and bloody violence. But whereas the recent Machete managed to both pay homage to its celluloid ancestors while emerging as an entertaining movie in its own right, this one ultimately proves to be a drag, getting off to a gleeful start before losing its way.
As if he didn't learn his lesson from Ghost Rider, Cage again plays a character who's a literal hellraiser here, he's Milton (presumably a nod to Paradise Lost scribe John Milton), who escapes Satan's lair to return to Earth for the sole purpose of saving his granddaughter from a murderous cult led by Jonah King (Billy Burke, aka Bella's dad in Twilight). Milton's assisted in his efforts by a tough beauty named Piper (Amber Heard) and pursued by Lucifer's most accomplished tracker, known simply as "The Accountant" (William Fichtner).
The opening half-hour, which relies heavily on the story's unusual characterizations as well as on some finely salted dialogue, promises more than the rest of the picture can deliver. Even by mindless drive-in standards, the action becomes rote long before the end, and Jonah King turns out to be a dull, one-note villain, a detriment in this sort of over-the-top fare. Even Cage is restrained more than usual, leaving Fichtner to provide any pop to the proceedings. He's amusing in that quirky Christopher Walken way, and a more appropriately bug-eyed turn from Cage would have resulted in a more memorable face-off.