All three of the aforementioned adjectives apply to Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry (Also known as Drive Angry 3D, but I never saw it that way). I never got a chance to see this film in theatres, and it is something I will regret for the rest of my life. While Drive Angry is most certainly one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) Grindhouse films I’ve ever seen, it is also one of the best films I’ve seen, PERIOD. I bought the film on DVD, and upon watching it once with my roommate and a very close friend, (neither of whom enjoyed the film until I explained the Grindhouse “revival” to them) I had a revelation: all of the absurdity and uncertainty I had processed in my life was validated. All my life I feared death, surrounded myself with it in attempt to figure out how this life would end, and ultimately I was content with shrugging it off, crossing that bridge when I got to it. This film single-handedly solved that crisis and forever cemented my absurdist views.
Drive Angry is the tale of John Milton (played by Nicolas Cage and yes, a literary reference), a man who has broken out of hell to save the life of his kidnapped granddaughter. The little girl faces death; her mother being killed so that this gigantic piece of shit named Jonah King would have no obstacles in offering the child up to Satan. Well that just didn’t sit well with Milton. He comes back and begins rampaging through his old stomping grounds (Earth), exacting all kinds of gruesome revenge on the assholes that took his granddaughter. Milton is described to us as a close friend and a bad husband, but a very good father—one who loved his daughter more than life itself. Essentially, John was a good man (how he ended up in Hell is beyond me), but he got mixed up with some bad people, leading not only to his own demise, but the estrangement and untimely death of his daughter, who tried to find a place to fit in and fill that void left by her father. So, in order to right all of his past wrongs, Milton is fucking bad people up to save the only thing he deems good in this world. Also, this movie definitely serves to prove that Mr. Cage is still one of the best actors ever. People seem to think he has fallen off or that he can’t act. WRONG. Nicolas. Cage. Is. The. Man. However, Cage gets overshadowed by a couple of characters in the film, most notably, Piper.
Piper is going to get a couple paragraphs to herself. She’s that important and that cool. Piper is played by none other than Amber Heard, probably best known as the unbelievably cool girlfriend to Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express, and she owns the hell out of the part. Heard has always been very beautiful, especially in The Informers (the film is a one out of four stars, but Ms. Heard and her body are a ten out of four), and she has actually displayed the ability to act during her career, which is incredibly refreshing, but it's unfathomable how attractive she is in this movie. To be perfectly honest, after seeing Amber Heard in Drive Angry, all other women got downgraded (in terms of that totally arbitrary, entirely unscientific “out-of-ten” system that males (including me apparently) love to use). I’m telling you, it is nearly impossible for me to stay respectful and decent with this, because it LITERALLY exploded a few nerve endings in my head (you get it) when she came into frame. Upon showing my father, he said, “You just like her because she shoots guns and drives cool cars.” Guess what, Dad? YOU’RE EXACTLY RIGHT.
Let’s get past how sinfully gorgeous Ms. Heard is and dive into how awesome she is in the film. Piper is Milton’s side-kick(ass). She is the epitome of an all-star. Piper can drive better than, fight fiercer than, and has bigger “balls” (another non-scientific, arbitrary system men use, but this time it measures courage) than any man alive. She is the victim of an abusive boyfriend, but it ultimately brings her to the point where she doesn’t need one—she is an independent woman, able to take care of herself. Her introduction shows her vice-gripping the testicles of a very “rape-y” boss, beating the shit out of some slut sleeping with her man, and ultimately standing up for herself and fighting back when said man hits her. Then, throughout the course of the film, she bails Milton out, saves his life, cracks skulls, and generally dominates everybody’s ass. By the end of the film we see Piper as a woman who stands up for and helps John Milton save his granddaughter. In summation, Piper does all the best shit: kicks ass, takes names, and does what’s right. AWESOME.
Another part of the film is this ridiculous-but-wicked-cool gun called the “God Killer.” It is a gun that apparently makes you non-existent if you get hit with one of its bullets. No Heaven, no Hell, just GONE. It is employed in the film hilariously and its final use is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in a movie. That’s all I’m saying about it, because you need to see it in action. Words can’t describe how cool it is.
Here is where the film becomes an “Existential Essential” (more on that ALL NEW section later) for me. Milton is from HELL. He breaks out to do what is right, and ultimately goes back to HELL. That seems like a real shitty ending, right? Wrong. What not only justifies that system, but also makes this film totally worthwhile, is a character that has been referenced by some as a potential Oscar contender: The Accountant. Basically an agent of Satan, The Accountant is on a mission to collect anybody who escapes Hell. In this instance he is after John Milton, our not so handsome and wonderful protagonist. He has no problem dishing out death at every turn, but to him it is a business. He is keeping the books on hell. He knows when and where people are going to die, but he has no problems delaying or accelerating that process. He marauds around like a detective on the hunt for Milton, leaving no stone unturned. He is so adamant about getting Milton back, that he drives a giant chemical truck into a police blockade so as to keep them from detaining him. Then, at the end of the film, having all but detained Milton, the Accountant lets him go and exact his revenge on Jonah King and his satanic cult. This is where the movie, for me at least, transcended its goofiness and actually had meaning to me. The Accountant allowed Milton to finish, knowing he would take him back to Hell anyway. Hell has always been portrayed to me as the worst imaginable place, where you suffer endlessly at the hands of evil beasts. In Drive Angry, I was presented a version of Hell where the beasts are merely men and while eternally damned, they are still SOULS. Milton says in one of the closing moments of the film, “even in Hell there is compassion.” For a fat kid who deals with the fear of death daily, this was something for me to get behind. I know its no more correct than any other film produced, but Drive Angry attacked the concepts of damnation, eternal suffering, Satan, and Hell with an absurdity and humor that allow me to deal with them in a safe place. I can laugh and joke about the things that frighten me most. I mean, there is a gun called the “God Killer.” It's totally ridiculous, but it’s also exactly what I needed.
To summarize it neatly for those who skip to the end of these things, Drive Angry is far and away the best film of 2011 thus far. It is also a contender for Best Movie Ever Made. I realize this sounds ridiculous, but I will stand by that conclusion as long as I live. The film allowed me personally to exorcise some serious demons, allowed me to have my mind blown by some cool action sequences (which I purposely didn’t spoil so that you may watch and have the same mind blowing experience), laugh heartily at the send-ups to the genre as well as revel in the lunacy of the whole thing, and last but certainly not least, I got to see the most beautiful woman alive, in tandem with the coolest dude alive, kick the shit out of some poor assholes who desperately deserved it.
Drive Angry is not only a perfect movie in my eyes, but it is the first film to win the Palm D’Gore, an award I am giving to the best Grindhouse movies of all time.