Drive Angry could have easily be marketed as a Terminator sequel, and I don’t think I would have batted an eye. Here is a film about a man named John Milton (Nicolas Cage) who is going around killing people all while looking for a specific target. Said target is Jonah King (Billy Burke), who has the MacGuffin that Milton wants — in this case, it’s his granddaughter, but it really doesn’t matter what it is.
John Milton is a character that shows little emotion throughout the entire film, despite being fairly polite most of the time. Sure, he’s determined and he is technically a pretty good guy, but he’s channeling about as much Arnold Schwarzenegger as you can without copying the infamous accent. He’s even got the sunglasses to match. Unfortunately, he never gets a motorcycle, instead preferring classic cars like a ’69 Charger and a ’71 Chevelle.
He is picked up by a foul-mouthed waitress named Piper (Amber Heard), who, after being rescued by Milton from her cheating, abusive boyfriend, decides to go on the journey with him. These two people have no chemistry whatsoever, although you’ll be glad to hear that they don’t become love interests. Why she stays isn’t all that clear to me, although after killing a couple of police officers, I guess there wasn’t any turning back.
The duo is chased at all times by a man called the Accountant (William Fichtner), who is almost always a step or two behind them, interrogating any and all survivors of the action scenes they participate in. He also proves himself to be able to handle himself quite well, moving as quickly as the agents in The Matrix, while also being just as strong. Oh, and he has a coin that he flips occasionally just to get some use out of the 3D effect.
I mentioned action scenes. There are many of them and they are sometimes inventive, although often they just degenerate into shootouts and car chases. In terms of creativity, there is one that stands out, and it involves a sex scene crossed with a shootout. If you previously hadn’t realized that Drive Angry wasn’t taking itself too seriously, you will now.
That’s a mistake that’s easy to make though, especially with how serious Cage plays his role. He doesn’t smile or even smirk, and emotion is something that gets thrown out the window right away. The comparison to Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is completely valid here, and it’s difficult to tell right off the bat that this film is going to turn into an over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, B-movie.
If all you want out of Drive Angry are a bunch of violent action scenes that have guns and cars both firing on all cylinders, than you might not be disappointed. The longest pause in the action lasts for maybe 10 minutes, if that, and there will almost always be something to focus on. If that’s all you want, then you should probably stop reading the review right now, because the rest of the things that I have to say are not going to be all that positive. More importantly, if all you want is the action movie described above, anything negative I have to say after this point won’t matter to you.
People wanting a plot that deviates from formula won’t be happy with Drive Angry. There aren’t any surprises, you’ll see everything coming, and the big “twist” of the film — one that has every attempt made to hide it for as long as possible — is given away in the trailers and the posters, and also doesn’t make any difference to the plot, except to set-up the protagonist as invincible. After the twist happens, and you probably already know what it is, there isn’t any tension to the action scenes, and I stopped caring altogether, even if Milton’s actions are noble and good and what have you.
If you’re also wanting good, or at least memorable performances, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. Cage isn’t as hammy as you’d hope, while Heard doesn’t do much apart from run around looking confused. Stealing the show in every scene that he’s in is Fichtner as the Accountant, but he basically just chases our leads, rarely interacting with anyone worthwhile. His character is the best part of the film, but he’s underutilized and needed far more to do. A movie just about him and his job probably would have been more entertaining.
Drive Angry is also a film that takes too long to get where it wants to go. There are stops off at random places where the only thing that happens are random action scenes, as well as a few car chases that could have been cut. It isn’t a long film by any stretch of the imagination, but for what it offers, it sure does feel like it takes its sweet time to deliver. I got bored at around the half-way point, meaning the second half, while slightly more engaging, was difficult to endure.
If all you want out of a movie is over-the-top action, then Drive Angry might not disappoint. If you want more substance, then you’ll want to avoid this film like the plague, and go search out something else. Since it feels like a Terminator movie anyway, why don’t you go watch one of those? At least they didn’t completely rely on formula plotting or 3D gimmicks.