Before you decide whether or not to see “Drive Angry 3D”, ask yourself the following question: do you like low budget exploitation films about driving cars? You know, car porn? If the answer is yes, you will enjoy “Drive Angry 3D”. Case closed.
Nicolas Cage plays Milton, a fast driving tough guy with a five-barreled shotgun that can destroy anything. He has escaped from the depths of hell to take revenge on a Satanic cult leader (Billy Burke) with the assistance of a tough-talking young woman Piper (Amber Heard). However, The Accountant (William Fitchner) is out to bring Milton back to hell and restore order in the fiery prison system. Car chases, shooting sequences, drinking, and explosions ensue.
Writers Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier do not mess around with this film. They created a throwback exploitation film and they deliver it. It has all the beats you’d expect from the car chase films of the height of grind house cinema with a good splashing of satanic rites for color and depth. When they choose to go beyond the standards of the genre, they innovate concepts rather than betray expectations.
If there is a failing in the film, it is the sometimes timid direction of Patrick Lussier. One of the most effective scenes in the film sees Piper singing along to Peaches’ raunchy “Fuck the Pain Away” after quitting her job at a diner. She becomes so caught up in the song she doesn’t realize her vintage car is overheating. It’s funny, outrageous, and befitting of the title “Drive Angry 3D”. However, for every shining moment like this, there is another moment that is played to tepidly it doesn’t work. If Lussier committed to the extreme nature of this genre of film, the entire film would be great. As it stands, the film goes from a very strong first reel to a decent, but not great, conclusion.
The 3D in this film is used to great effect. One of my favorite visual motifs is the combination of the waxing moon and the headlight of the car. The moon is slightly concave while the headlight is slightly convex, shifting between falling away and rising towards the audience. Milton’s face is placed in between the two images, producing a great moment of tension as he races to destroy the cult leader before the full moon. The 3D is used for storytelling, not gimmicks. If more films actually thought about the use of 3D like this bizarre little exploit film did, I doubt people would be complaining about every film coming out in 3D.
If any of this sounds appealing, you’ll enjoy “Drive Angry 3D”. If it sounds horrid, boring, and worthless, you won’t like it. This was not designed to be a film for everyone. Hopefully, the people who would love this film get a chance to see it as intended on the big screen.