Exploitation films are an acquired taste. Much like fermented tofu, you either love it or find the very idea disgusting (most people fall into the latter category). Fortunately, although the inception of VHS-tapes brought an end to the grindhouses and drive-through theaters that catered to such cinema, there are still filmmakers dedicated to the art-form. Two famous examples being Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, however there are still those lesser known for the technique. And Patrick Lussier’s (Dracula 2000, White Noise 2: The Light) Drive Angry 3D, which he penned along with Todd Farmer (of My Bloody Valentine and Jason X fame), is definitive of the genre: Meaning it’s oversaturated with gratuitous sex and violence.
And there’s something satisfying about seeing Nicolas Cage (Adaptation., Lord of War, Season of the Witch) reigning as John Milton, a bat straight out of Hell; a man who has escaped the underworld in order to avenge the death of his daughter and son-in-law, who were killed violently by Jonah King (Billy Burke), a murderous cult-leader who then kidnapped their child — Milton’s granddaughter — to use as a religious sacrifice. But Milton’s plan of saving the baby is made even more difficult when “The Accountant” (William Fichtner), one of Satan’s ruthless underlings, visits Earth in an attempt to stop him.
Rounding out the cast is Amber Heard (The Stepfather, Zombieland, Pineapple Express) as Piper, a waitress-turned-sidekick who accompanies Milton, after the hardened badass saves her from an abusive boyfriend (played by Farmer himself). Veteran actor David Morse (The Green Mile, Contact, The Hurt Locker) also stars, playing Webster, the man who buried John in the first place. Other notable cast-members include (but not limited to): Christina Campbell, Charlotte Ross, Jack McGee, and Marc Macaulay, who plays Sarge, a police chief who also wants the anti-hero dead.
But it’s usually Cage in the spotlight. Within the first few minutes, the actor drives a sports car down one of Hell’s highways, flips over a crook’s car, shoots an enemy’s hand off with a shotgun, and causes a major explosion. Things only escalate from there when we have the pleasure of watching Milton shoot up a couple of King’s henchmen whilst making love to a blonde waitress, smoking a cigar, and drinking liquor straight from the bottle. Not only does this show what Cage is willing to do for a paycheck but just what kind of film Drive Angry 3D really is.
And what it is, is a dirty little vixen that isn’t afraid of doing away with Western sensibilities and exploiting cultural taboos. The characters are potty-mouthed, there are buckets of needlessly spilled blood, bare breasts are abundant, and the entire subplot involving King’s satanic fellowship borders on sacrilegious. There have already been stories of patrons leaving the theater offended. Those looking for a slice of tame filmmaking need not apply.
So when it comes to objectively reviewing the film, a usually simple task becomes a pain. On one hand, it does what it sets out to do: Pay homage to classic exploitation films. On the other, Farmer’s script is brain dead and on-rails never leaving the realm of predictability and at times it’s as if the plot is just a vehicle (pun intended) for sleazy car chases. Southern and misogynic stereotypes are embraced and the colorful language doesn’t quite help its appeal towards intellectuals. But that was all intentional and I found myself entertained, although it seems that my tastes aren’t quite as esteemed as I’d like to think.
Regardless, I’d like to see more of Lussier’s unique representation of Hell — a post-apocalyptic cityscape where one must watch his loved ones suffering — but that was probably left open for a sequel, which is hinted at towards the end. The question is: Will Drive Angry 3D make enough dough to constitute a second installment or will audience members refuse to see the director’s self-proclaimed slice of trailer trash cinema for fear of ridicule? That my friends, even I can’t answer.