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Thursday, March 3, 2011 09:35 am

Drive Angry a tedious ride

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I don’t pretend to know what goes on in the mind of Nicolas Cage when it comes to how he chooses which movies to make but I have a theory. Whenever he’s done a film that has a modicum of intelligence, it’s ignored. I submit Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Lord of War and The Weather Man as evidence. However, when he does a movie that contains elements more likely to deliver big box office, he has greater success. See the National Treasure films for proof. Then again, he may not have a clue and simply does anything that seems halfway decent for the cash.

This has to be the reason for his agreeing to do his latest, Drive Angry 3D, a campy drive-in flick that starts off fun but ultimately overstays its welcome. One of Cage’s most appealing qualities is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and this holds him in good stead here as he plays a father who escapes from hell in order to save his newborn granddaughter from being sacrificed by the leader of a satanic cult. A sign of the script’s subtlety is that his character’s name is John Milton.

All of the requisite elements of the drive-in genre are present, from excessive violence and gore to stilted dialogue, raunchy sex and hot chicks. Amber Heard as the hard-punching sexpot Piper makes a strong argument for the continued use of 3-D in her short shorts and tight tops, while William Fichtner has the most fun as The Accountant, an emissary from Hell sent to bring Milton back to the fiery fold. The black humor and campy action are fun for a while, but director Patrick Lussier has no sense of pacing and couldn’t film a decent car chase if his soul was on the line. But Cage almost makes it bearable, especially during a scene in which he describes how awful Hell is. It’s a human moment in a cartoonish world. While it breaks the movies spell, it’s a reminder of how good an actor Cage can be, even when he’s dealing with a hellish script.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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