Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Drive Angry

Directed by: Patrick Lussier

Produced by: Michael de Luca

Screenplay by: Todd Farmer
Patrick Lussier

Starring: Nicholas Cage
Amber Heard
William Fichtner
Billy Burke
David Morse

Music by: Michael Wandmacher

Cinematography by: Brian Pearson

Editing by: Patrick Lussier
Devin C. Lussier

Studio(s): Millenium Films
Nu Image
Saturn Films

Distributed by: Summit Entertainment (United States)
Lionsgate (United Kingdom)
Metropolitan Filmexport (France)

Release date(s): February 25, 2011

Running time: 100 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $45-$50 million

Box office revenue: $28, 931, 401

Okay dokey, I've seen The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), and as a teaser for the full review (published later this week), I will say that I did like the film and think Tom Six is a director to be watched in this decade. On another note, I'm really enjoying Mark Kermode's The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex. Unlike his first book, which was essentially his autobiography, this stands as a brilliant study of the state of the art form of cinema in it's contemporary (and past) form, punctuated by his great wit and should grace any film lovers library. Kermode and my friend Daniel Kelly (of Danland Movies) are among the few I would personally recommend as alternate opinions to my own. Of course, every critic has an alternative opinion (incidentally, I wouldn't rule out a read of Armond White: no one has a monopoly of opinion, and White's beliefs are as legitimate as anyone else's, even if some of them seem bonkers), but I just have my preferences, both as a reader and member of the critical community. But, moving swiftly on, in closure (and keeping with tradition), keep your eyes posted!

Getting on with the shizzle, here we have on the operating table Drive Angry. This film was released earlier in the year and stars Nicholas Cage, who last year reminded his fans with Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans and Kick-Ass that despite all the crap we've had to sit through, he's a fine actor. He and his ever reliable co-star Amber Heard head up this film by Patrick Lussier, most famous for White Noise: The Light (very nearly my first ever worst film of the year) and My Bloody Valentine's 3D remake. Also shot in 3D, although I got the version I saw was in 2D (poor me), Drive Angry follows John Milton (Nic Cage: get the reference), a mysterious stranger of sorts, is seeking Jonah King (Billy Burke), a satanic cult leader who murdered his daughter and took her baby. Along the way, he meets Piper (Amber Heard), beating up her nasty boyfriend and heading on the road with her to complete his mission. Amidst all this, there is another mysterious stranger who goes by the name of The Accountant (William Ficthner), is on the search for Milton for unknown reasons.

Starting with the good, Drive Angry excels in a department that many others fail: it succeeds in being a legitimate 'grindhouse' film, unlike examples such as Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, and importantly, it isn't trying to be a grindhouse film. It is a suitably nasty, crazy film full of car chases, explosions, and most notably, a Manson family-esque religious cult. The religious aspect is one of the films greatest strengths, adding to it's inherent ridiculousness and some way making it stand out from the pack. Cage's 'Godkiller' gun and his ability to take ridiculous amounts of pain tie in well to the movie's undertones. Also, being a film of this genre, it is good to see that the set-pieces are well choreographed and that the stunt teams have done fine work here to make this as entertaining a film as they possibly can. Although not up the standard that Fast Five has set for the genre, the chases are bounds above those you would see in most other Hollywood films. Furthermore, Brian Pearson's cinematography has given the film a nice visual flair which ensures that it is always watchable. Speaking of watchable, I'd finally like to point out Amber Heard. At the risk of sounding like a creep (and not ruling out her attractiveness), every movie I see her in she puts the maximum amount of effort into her part. Her role as Piper is the kind of defiant 'girl power' part that makes for a nice change (although it should be the norm) from normal depictions of female stereotypes. One of Drive Angry's greatest pleasures is seeing her punch her boyfriend who has been sleeping with another woman, and laughing as he hits her back. Heard is never anything less than impressive in this film, and is Drive Angry's stand-out actor.

However, as much as I think there are good points about Drive Angry, I feel too that there are a number of negative points. The foremost offender is Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier's script, which aside from the religious aspect, is completely murder-by-numbers. Every character onscreen is two-dimensional and with the exception of Heard's Piper, you never buy as people to sympathise with or believe in. Billy Burke's Jonah King is the most horrendous example, and feels like he was written by a statistician with a check book/chequebook. Also, the dialogue has the problem of causing the audience to not be able to distinguish between serious and comic scenes. This is problematic when you get an actor like Cage, who puts a lot of effort into every role, but unfortunately his efforts, due to the poor script, have made him look silly. Also of issue is the editing by (once again) Patrick Lussier and Devin C. Lussier. As a film that was clearly designed for 3D, with lots of tyres and pokey things flying towards the screen, having these gimmicks in the 2D version of the film is pointless. Furthermore, the portrayal of Cage's inner turmoil is achieved with stupid (and visually irritating) dissolves between Cage and his daughter's murder. Frankly, a simple, old-fashioned series of fast cuts would have done. Also, and this may be as much the fault of the CGI team, there are some awful special effects. I've seen some between computer effects this side of Flight Simulator '98: (no spoilers) watch the final shots of the film, and you can't say they don't look hokey. It is problems like this that seriously detract from an otherwise enjoyable experience.

Drive Angry is a real mixed bag of a movie: on the one hand, it is a genuine grindhouse picture, with strong religious undertones, some entertainingly choreographed action set-pieces, good cinematography and a rather good turn from Amber Heard. Despite this, it is plagued by a shoddy script, that does not benefit it's actors whatsoever, has a number of issues in the transfer from 3D to 2D (can one version not be enough?) and has some insufferably bad editing and CG special effects. You may or may not enjoy this film, as even with its problems, it's watchable. Saying that, my words of advice would ask you to be wary and take Drive Angry with a pinch of salt. Still, it's better than White Noise: The Light.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Excited (I've got set-dancing tonight!)

P.S. This is juvenile I know, but I can't but laugh at the composer's name: Wandmacher = 'Wand-maker.' Look, I found it funny, ok!

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