Drive Angry (3D Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Patrick Lussier
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 105 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Review Date: May 25, 2011
A few minutes into Drive Angry, I had to check my press release because I hadn’t recalled that either Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez had released a movie by this title in 2011. I needn’t have bothered, however. A few more minutes in and it was clear that this was a Tarantino-wannabe, a decent stab at replicating some of the over-the-top mayhem of the Grindhouse flicks. What Patrick Lussier’s movie lacks, however, is that sly, witty way with a sarcastic word that distinguishes their exploitation films from others of their ilk. You can blow a man’s hand off or put a stake through someone’s eye, but if you can’t put droll tongue-in-cheek banter into the mouths of your characters, then you’re simply not in the same league with those two masters of classy schlock.
Freshly escaped from hell, (the ironically named) John Milton (Nicolas Cage) is on an odyssey to find his infant grandchild stolen from his now deceased daughter by a satanic cult headed by the sadistic Jonah King (Billy Burke). King plans to use the baby in a sacrificial rite to Lucifer, but Satan has sent his own right hand man dubbed the Accountant (William Fichtner) to let it be known that such sacrifices are not welcomed by the Devil. The Accountant must also bring Milton back to the Land of the Dead. Milton gets leads on the whereabouts of his grandchild from a kickass waitress named Piper (Amber Heard) who has tired of being batted around by redneck boy friend Frank (Todd Farmer) and decides to head out with Milton to lend a hand. Milton’s guardian angel Webster (David Morse) also shows up from time to time to see how his friend is progressing.
True to the genre of fast muscle cars, hyper-violence, intense profanity, and lots and lots of naked female flesh, Drive Angry should certainly please nondiscerning fans of the genre. Director Lussier rarely stops the action to take a breath, and action set pieces involving multiple shootouts, car chases ending in enormous calamities, and the capper involving the explosion of a truck carrying liquid hydrogen are just about all anyone could expect. It’s intensely loud and always vulgar (Cage wiping out a band of marauders while engaged in intercourse and swigging on a bottle of bourbon pretty much defines the genre as we know it). Since he’s already dead and a resident of hell, we know he’ll stop at nothing, and we know nothing can stop him, so that takes some of the fun out of the multiple injuries he endures during the movie. Having an immortal action antihero somehow just doesn’t seem to play quite fair. The script was co-written by director Lussier and co-star Todd Farmer, and their glee with the genre isn't quite matched by a certain lack of creative inspiration.
All of the actors seem to be enjoying themselves enormously. Nicholas Cage has played this demonic bad boy before, so there is nothing much new on display (except maybe the bad blond dye job on his hair), but co-star Amber Heard has the looks and sass to hold her own surrounded by a cast of scene-stealing gentlemen. William Fichtner underplays his role (a wise decision with all the mayhem which surrounds him) as the Devil’s second-in-command, and David Morse is always a pleasure to have around though more might have been done with his character. Billy Burke gets the prize for the most over-the-top performance, a scene chewing, goggled-eyed psycho with the evilest of noble intentions.
3D implementation – 5/5
The film is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a resolution of 1080p and rendered using the AVC codec. Shot digitally, the images are razor sharp and loaded with intricate detail. Color is well saturated throughout though flesh tones vary somewhat from a tad purplish to accurate to oversaturated. There are a couple of places where there are momentary color shifts to the image, but those may have been deliberate. Black levels are extensively deep but sometimes crush shadow detail with their extreme inkiness. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The 3D implementation is exactly what one expects from a movie shot specifically for 3D. The sense of depth is always present, and the utilization of multiple planes with various characters and set pieces is beautifully delivered without calling great attention to itself. In terms of projections from the screen, the film is alive with them: everything from extensions of objects like bats and rifle barrels to flying objects like bullets, glass, coins, hatchets, and car parts aimed right at the viewer. You’ll be ducking more than once from objects coming right into your face.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is loud! In a film with almost constant activity, the sound designers have fashioned a hyper-active aural environment with panning objects across and through the soundfield and multiple split effects delivered in all available channels at every viable opportunity. Michael Wandmacher’s driving music is a constant presence and features deep bass and impressive resonance. Dialogue is located in the center channel and is always easily discernible.
The 3D disc in the set offers only BD-Live as a special feature, and the only feature on the website pertaining to this film is the 2 ½ minute theatrical trailer.
The second disc in the set is the regular 2D Blu-ray release of the film. It contains the following bonus features:
The audio commentary is by director Patrick Lussier and co-writer Todd Farmer. The two men are good friends and have an easy conversation about making the movie. Lussier is hampered by extreme laryngitis, but their high spirits make it a track that’s worth a listen.
There are two deleted scenes which may be viewed with or without commentary by Lussier and Farmer explaining why these brief snippets were excluded. These 1080p clips run a total of 1 ½ minutes but may be watched individually.
Access: Drive Angry is an interactive mode which may be turned on prior to the film. It offers three different features which can run together or in any combination: picture-in-picture comments from the director and actors of the movie at specific moments, a running trivia track, and a “Milton’s Mayhem Meter” which keeps track of all of the injuries perpetrated by Nicolas Cage’s character.
3/5 (not an average)
A perfectly acceptable exploitation movie featuring fast cars, hot babes, and fatal vendettas, Drive Angry does not have the sass and sizzle of a Tarantino or Rodriguez sleaze flick, but its decent elements of the genre and its expert usage of 3D make this release a must see for fans of the genre with 3D accessibility.