Drive Angry (2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/22/12
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke

A great old-school revenge flick featuring Nicolas Cage as a man who breaks out of Hell to avenge his daughter's murder and save his granddaughter from being sacrificed by a nasty Satanic cult leader (Billy Burke). Unfortunately, time is not on his side as he only has a couple of days to find and rescue the child, and Lucifer's Accountant (delightful William Fichtner) is just a few steps behind him. With the reluctant help of a beautiful young waitress named Piper (gorgeous Amber Heard), they just barely manage to pull it off.

I remember seeing the trailer for this in the theater, and its 70's campiness and offbeat sense of humor appealed to me. The only reason I didn't see it when it came out was because it was only shown in 3D, which is something I steadfastly refuse to support. The 3D effects are about as silly and gratuitous as I expected, with bullets, severed body parts, and exploding cars flying into your face. What I wasn't expecting was such a strong and compelling performance from Amber Heard, who goes all out with her violently sexy portrayal of Piper. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, but she's also extremely convincing as an untamed bundle of feminine fury that you DO NOT want to cross. Quite possibly my favorite line in the film is when Jonah King has Piper pinned down and is preparing to kill her...

Jonah: "I am going to kill you. And then I'm going to defile your corpse."
Piper: "Between now and then, I'm gonna fuck you up."

Heard pulls off her sweet Southern drawl perfectly, and only slips out of character a couple of times towards the end the film. Regardless, she's simply fabulous and I'm now an ardent fan. Billy Burke makes a great villain and William Fichtner steals the show as the overly polite, but exceedingly sadistic Accountant. Unfortunately, it's Nicolas Cage who seems to be the weakest link in the film, and despite his considerable experience in action cinema, he still doesn't have a convincing action persona. However, his performance is adequate for the scope of the film and doesn't detract from the action.

Another surprise is how well written the film is. The dialog is smart and well thought out, which gives the characters some dimensionality and makes them seem more real and genuine. It's not just attitude, posturing, and macho bullshit, which I found extremely refreshing. I also appreciated the portrayal of Satan as "quiet, thoughtful, and well read," and one who gets very upset when innocent children are sacrificed in his honor. The fact that The Accountant becomes conflicted about his mission to bring Milton back to Hell is also a nice twist. Overall, I found it to be a delightfully charming and thoroughly enjoyable (albeit bloody) ride.