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Movies Review

Drive Angry 3D

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'Drive Angry'
Released on Monday, Feb 21 2011

> Interview: Amber Heard

Beyond its peculiar title, Drive Angry is a fun ride that provides plenty in the way of laughs, raucous action and vehicular fury before running out of gas in its underwhelming final act. Enjoyable performances from the cast hit the right tone for this escapist movie, while the 3D element is used to fine effect to ramp up the visceral thrills. The absence of any jaw-dropping set pieces is sorely felt though.

The plot is pure hokum, involving Nicolas Cage's John Milton doing a hell of a lot more than making English Literature students sigh at his name. For he has escaped from Satan's clutches and returned to Earth in order to prevent a demonic cult from sacrificing his baby granddaughter having already murdered his daughter. To assist his quest, Milton picks up foulmouthed but sweet-natured waitress Piper (Amber Heard) and the pair embark on a baddie buttkicking spree with the help of a vintage car or two. However, the Devil's 'Accountant' (William Fichtner) needs to balance the books up in Hell - and stalks Milton intent on dispatching him back to his fiery afterlife.

Drive Angry's storyline would have fallen flat if the cast had either treated the material contemptuously by playing it too tongue in cheek, or by taking matters too seriously and belying the movie's sense of fun. Fortunately, the actors find a fine balance between those extremes. Nicolas Cage's uber-solemn delivery of his lines is a treat and he brings hilarity out of seemingly mundane situations like ordering a coffee in a diner. His laconic presence also elevates the action - most notably in a very funny sequence in which John Milton takes part in a shoot-out mid-coitus! His latest hairstyle also deserves acclaim, seemingly having been prised from the scalp of British thesp Julian Sands.

Amber Heard, who has impressed in little-seen movies like The Ward and The Joneses, outlines her leading lady credentials with a terrific turn that exudes both ballbreaking attitude and sincerity from behind her stunning physical features. It's also refreshing that the leading duo's relationship resembles more of a father-daughter bond that grows during the movie, as far too often females are either token love interests or mere plot functions in the male-dominated action genre. However, the movie's most eyecatching portrayal is from William Fichtner as The Accountant, unleashing the same meticulous sleuthing obsession that he brought to Alexander Mahone in Prison Break. He also effortlessly rattles off some killer lines such as his opening gambit of "You - fat f**k!" That might look dull on the page but, as with Cage, the manner in which its said and the context is marvellous.

Unfortunately, the script and editing are both lacking in such clinical precision. The exposition of the backstory is often clunkily shoehorned into the narrative via flashbacks that upset the momentum, while the climactic fight sequences are dragged out for far too long and become repetitive. In particular, one battle in a Winnebago between Piper and the cult's evil leader Jonah King (played by Billy Burke with relish) drags on for absolutely ages without the visual invention required. The final showdown also provides one of those baffling action movie moments - memorably sent up in Austin Powers - when the chief villain keeps threatening to kill an opponent but keeps prolonging this for long enough to allow a rescue to take place. It's hard to resist shouting "just get on with it" at the cinema screen!

The use of 3D cameras for filming has definitely enhanced the look of the movie - unlike certain other blockbusters that have shamelessly added an extra dimension in post-production purely to boost profits through more expensive 3D screenings. The lengthy angular design of the classic cars driven by the protagonists is effectively showcased through this medium, as are the various bits of debris that come flying in your direction during various moments of destruction. Again though, Drive Angry fails to land that knockout visual blow having threatened to do so frequently.

Not every movie needs to be a thought-provoking work of art, with Drive Angry delivering a fun blend of blood-drenched action to devour - preferably after a few beverages to encourage the little grey cells to unwind! Far from flawless but boosted by a host of appealing performances, a good box office performance is deserved. After all, what would they call the sequel? Cycle Furious? Swim Irate. I'll get me coat...


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