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Drive Angry Blu-ray Review

Drive Angry (2011) movie poster Drive Angry

Theatrical Release: February 25, 2011 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Patrick Lussier / Writers: Todd Farmer, Patrick Lussier

Cast: Nicolas Cage (John Milton), Amber Heard (Piper), William Fichtner (The Accountant), Billy Burke (Jonah King), David Morse (Webster), Charlotte Ross (Candy), Todd Farmer (Frank), Christa Campbell (Mona), Tom Atkins (Cap), Katy Mixon (Norma Jean), Jack McGee (Fat Lou), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Roy), Edrick Browne (Rookie Katsura), Mark Macaulay (Sarge), Bryan Massey (Trooper Lerma), Timothy Walter (Trooper Bronson), Arianne Martin (Milton's Daughter - Older), Wanetah Walmsley (American Indian Mother)

Buy Drive Angry from Amazon.com: DVD • Blu-ray • Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray

In recent years, the production of Nicolas Cage movies has increased. The critical ratings and box office returns on them have decreased. Probably not unrelated to this are the reports of Cage's financial troubles, including millions owed to the IRS in back taxes.
In exchange for more paychecks, Cage must anticipate damage to his quote and a legacy that reaches back thirty years.

Drive Angry, the second of four Cage movies to be released to theaters this year, appears to be a victim of bad timing. This action movie was shot in 3D and emphasized that angle in its marketing campaign, to distinguish it from the numerous coolly-received conversions released in the wake of Avatar's unprecedented success. Despite many high-profile predictions to the contrary and support from every major studio and nearly every major film, the new age of 3D cinema that Avatar was supposed to launch is starting to look a lot like the fads that past waves of old-fashioned 3D proved to be. Though the supply of digital 3D films in theaters isn't going to slow anytime soon, the number of recent underperformers and breakdown of 2D vs. 3D admissions illustrate that American audiences have undeniably grown weary of paying surcharges and wearing glasses, regardless of whether the movies were created for 3D or just refashioned for it.

Hell escapee John Milton (Nicolas Cage) and young waitress Piper (Amber Heard) are unlikely companions on a road trip through America's heartland in "Drive Angry."

Drive Angry stars Cage as John Milton, a name you may recognize as the 17th century English author of the epic poem Paradise Lost or as Al Pacino's character in The Devil's Advocate. Just as those two have their ties, you suspect this Milton is linked to them from the otherworldly quality he displays in an opening scene, in which he casually shoots and kills a pick-up truck full of wayward hillbillies. Milton's next stop is a tiny Oklahoma diner, where he sees waitress Piper (Amber Heard). As if not by coincidence, her 1969 Dodge Charger breaks down not long after she quits her thankless job and Milton knows just the quick fix, which he applies in exchange for a ride.

Though he's headed for Louisiana's Stillwater Marsh and she is only driving to her fiancι, circumstances change and Milton and the Daisy Duked Piper are suddenly together for a long haul. Milton explains his destination: he's looking to retrieve his infant grandchild, the daughter of his estranged daughter and her husband. The couple got mixed up with a satanic cult and recently ended up dead, with their baby in the possession of cult ringleader Jonah King (Billy Burke, who, without his mustache, you might not recognize as Bella's father Charlie from The Twilight Saga). King and his devoted followers plan to sacrifice the child at the forthcoming full moon and Milton isn't about to let that happen.

Meanwhile, Milton and Piper are being pursued by several jurisdictions' local law enforcement and, more passionately, by a coin-flipping man wielding an FBI badge and referring to himself only as The Accountant (William Fichtner). Like Milton, he exudes a hellish air and resilience beyond a mere mortal.

Supposed FBI Agent The Accountant (William Fichtner) is on Milton's trail, beginning with an interrogation of these two Oklahoma diner employees (Jack McGee, Katy Mixon). Billy Burke trades his signature "Twilight" mustache for a soul patch, playing creepy cult leader Jonah King.

Drive Angry belongs to the exploitation genre that directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino
have looked to make relevant again for modern moviegoers, with their double feature Grindhouse and its spin-off Machete finding ample acclaim but limited commercial success. Unabashed in its excesses, Drive Angry has a design that excuses most of what could be perceived as faults in other action movies. The over-the-top violence, ludicrous gunplay, and outlandish story progression come with awareness. This isn't a comedy, but it plays like one, with audiences meant to laugh and cheer at gruesome kills and impossible resurrections.

I must admit I don't gravitate to action or violence and if seeing and reviewing as many movies as I can wasn't how I barely make my living, I might not seek out something like this. And yet I know enough to recognize what Drive Angry sets out to do and can appreciate that it does a reasonably good job of doing it. Maybe a diet of over 100 new movies a year has irreversibly desensitized me, but I didn't find much to be offended about by this movie, which might disappoint those who really revel in the shock value aspect of such fare. Sure, Drive Angry is largely vacant morally and anyone without a stomach for carnage could be made sick by the gory imagery that figures throughout. But it's not like the film expects you to take it seriously in any real way. Just about its only goal is to entertain and I'd be lying if I said it didn't do that in the no holds barred fashion it wants to.

The cast is a big part of that. I don't know if I can ever again find Cage less than amusing, no matter how hard or little he tries. The actor assumes a different look in many of his films; here, it's shaggy blonde hair and a stubbly beard. The voice remains the same, though, and usually these days, intended or not, it provides an air of self-parody that I get a kick out of. As his earthly companion in mayhem, Heard supplies a nice contrast. Though she has yet to do much that is widely seen and weightily assessed, she's shaping up to be of the better actors of her age group and remains natural and believable in the face of all the madness endured here. Beyond those leads, Burke is appropriately loathsome, the reliable Fichtner seizes the opportunity to add style to one of his biggest parts to date, and David Morse also shows up briefly to good effect, carrying the name "Webster" as part of the Faustian motif.

Piper (Amber Heard) aims the GodKiller gun right at the camera in one of the film's many shots designed for 3D effect. Nic Cage stands up to the Satanists who killed his daughter and abducted his granddaughter.

Like director Patrick Lussier's previous film, the sufficiently diverting My Bloody Valentine remake, this one exploits the 3D format for maximum impact. In other words, we get a lot of scenes where objects fall towards, or are hurled at, the camera. The intention is unmistakable even when the picture is not enhanced for that format, as it wasn't in my standard Blu-ray viewing. While it does turn the movie into more of a gimmicky feature-length thrill ride than a standard film (and the substandard CGI visual effects don't help), it at least does something more than simulate planes of depth, an effect I have trouble comprehending that so much time and money has gone into. Before the current 3D craze, this is the only kind of movie that would have been exhibited in the format. And I'd like to think that if the studios allow the briefly commonplace offering to fade (and if it's in their financial interests, as it seems to be lately, to do so, they will), 3D will continue to exist to deliver such occasional whimsy to those hungry for something different.

Though I see more point to in-your-face 3D like this than the more subtle approach that "enhances" most films in the format, no one seemed to have any interest in Drive Angry. Even with the premium ticket prices of its nearly exclusively 3D release, the movie opened with a paltry $5.2 million en route to just $10.7 M domestically. Until last month's unwanted sequel Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, that stood as the weakest performance put up by a widely-released 3D film in over the past 30 years. Drive Angry gets another chance to get noticed in its home video debut this week. Summit Entertainment released the film today in a single-disc DVD, a single-disc Blu-ray, and a 2-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray combo.

Drive Angry Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy Blu-ray from Amazon.com Blu-ray Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
DTS-HD 5.1 MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $30.49
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard/Foil Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($26.99 SRP) and Blu-ray 3D ($34.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Drive Angry is quite likely the best-looking Blu-ray I've seen in my four months of reviewing the format. That distinction may result in part from the fact that the film appears in 1.78:1 widescreen and not the new standard of 2.40:1. Every available pixel goes to the movie, resulting in a pristine element with stunning clarity. It's impossible not to marvel at how sharp and detailed the 1080p visuals are.

The DTS-HD 5.1 master audio soundtrack also does an amazing job. As an always moving action film, Drive Angry has a mix full of aural delights, which are well realized with striking immediacy and noise distributed from all the different channels. I've bemoaned the timing and wisdom of the industry's push for Blu-ray, but a presentation like this dramatically demonstrates the format's technical gains.

The Accountant (William Fichtner) shows his gratitude for the ride that Morgan Girl (Amber Heard's stunt double Kimberly Shannon Murphy) gives him in this deleted scene. In the picture-in-picture "Access: 'Drive Angry'", director/writer Patrick Lussier discusses Milton's memorable multi-tasking motel room sequence.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Drive Angry is joined by just three real bonus features, but two of them are quite substantial. First up is a filmmakers' audio commentary by writer Todd Farmer and writer/director Patrick Lussier. This track might be a home video first; Lussier is suffering from laryngitis and his voice is noticeably strained throughout. In spite of that, the two hold our interest with a full and spirited discussion through the end of the long end credits. Among the more interesting topics touched upon
are Cage's contributions to the movie (playing a character written as 70 years old, his decision to never curse), the film's morally muddled 1970s inspirations (High Plains Drifter, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) and notes received from the producers.

For deleted scenes, we get two short items (1:30). The first is a brief snippet dropped from an existing scene and the other finds The Accountant getting a ride (from stuntwoman Kimberly Shannon Murphy) and giving a little something back. Lussier and Farmer explain the deletions in optional commentary.

Third and most significant is "Access: Drive Angry", which is listed both on the main menu and in the special features window. This interactive viewing mode enhances playback of the film with three things. "Cast & Crew Insights" are intermittent picture-in-picture interview video clips (primarily from Lussier, Farmer, Heard, Fichtner, and Burke; Cage is conspicuously absent) with the occasional set photo or storyboard, carnage counter "Milton's Mayhem" assigns points based on the kind of violence inflicted by Cage's character (e.g. Kick: +25 points, Head Shot Kill: +150 points), and "Did You Know?" is a track of fun facts pertaining to what's onscreen (much of them about the cars). A helpful navigational bar counts down to the next item's arrival and allows you to jump to the next or return to the previous. You can also customize the experience to deactivate one or two of the three components. It's a more exciting alternative to the standard audio commentary, with which this cannot be combined.

A wanted sign for Milton in the state of Louisiana hits the windshield of a car, whose rearview mirror reflection reveals is clearly driven by the Nicolas Cage character in the first-person dashboard view of the Blu-ray menu adapted from the film's closing credits.

Finally, with an Internet connection, the listing "What's New" takes you to a BD-Live area ("Summit-Live"), which unsurprisingly consists of nothing more than streamable trailers for recent and upcoming Summit titles, with a section dedicated to the studio's flagship Twilight Saga.

The disc opens with a 30-second ad for Source Code. Drive Angry's own trailer is not included.

Adapted from the end titles sequence, the inspired menu offers a first-person drive with photos, documents, and other items flying into the windshield. The disc does not support bookmarks, but resumes playback of the film unless you've ejected the disc.

Drive Angry's standard slim eco-friendly Blu-ray case is topped by a sleek cardboard slipcover boasting foil effects and extensive embossing on all four sides (down to tiny sparks on the front). To boot, the sleeve adds some value by diverging from the rear case artwork.

John Milton (Nicolas Cage) gives a badass slow walk away from destruction in the early shot displaying the film's 3D-minded title logo.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Drive Angry is a rush that delivers its bloody, hell-on-earth tale with its tongue firmly in cheek. That approach lowers its demands beneath standard action flicks, as concerns about flawed logic, questionable morality, and gratuitous content fall to the wayside. While it's not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, it is also not a dull one, achieving the one thing it sets out to do (entertain) as well as or better than other recent self-aware grindhouse flicks.

Summit's Blu-ray delivers a knockout feature presentation, with dazzling picture and sound. To that, it adds an engaging audio commentary and a creative value-adding alternate playback mode. If you like the movie or think you will, the only question is what edition to buy. Otherwise, if you're in the market for over-the-top action, this is worth a look.

Buy Drive Angry from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / Blu-ray 3D / DVD

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Related Reviews:
New: The Big Bang • The Mechanic • Passion Play • The Terminator (Blu-ray Book)
Nicolas Cage: Kick-Ass • Knowing • Ghost Rider • Con Air • Next • The Sorcerer's Apprentice
More Cage: National Treasure • National Treasure: Book of Secrets • The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
Amber Heard: And Soon the Darkness • The Exterminators • The Joneses • Zombieland | Billy Burke: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
William Fichtner: Date Night • Armageddon | 3D Movies: The Green Hornet • Piranha • Tron: Legacy • Avatar
Faster • Eat My Dust • Edge of Darkness • The Devil and Max Devlin • No Country for Old Men

Drive Angry Songs List (in order of use): Trooper - "Raise a Little Hell", "Wrong Path", "Final Hour Blues", Peaches - "Fuck the Pain Away", T.Rex - "Laser Love", Robbyn Kimrssι - "Sandman", April Wine - "I Like to Rock", The Raveonettes - "You Want the Candy", UNKLE - "The Answer", "All Things Bright and Beautiful", Easy Action - "That's The Way I Like It", Everlast - "Stone in My Hand", Michael Wandmacher - "Amazing Grace", Mark Campbell - "Alive", Weston Cage - "Drive Angry"

Drive Angry: Original Motion Picture Score by Michael Wandmacher:
Download from iTunes • Download Amazon MP3s • Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed May 31, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Summit Entertainment and Millennium Films. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.