Cage revs engine in Drive, fails to ignite

Drive Angry is an R-rated, 3D, supernatural action flick with unpretentious goals and explosions to spare. While the film may not have a lofty purpose, it still does not quite succeed because of its obfuscated plot, wooden acting and slow pacing. However, all is not lost because while it is no film of note, it still entertains sporadically. The 3D elements are pretty fun, but many times, they were just distracting and heavy-handed. Overall, it is not a movie worth the price of admission, let alone the 3D surcharge.

Drive Angry does not try to be a great film that goes down in history as a classic. Instead, it tries to be more of what it actually is: a B-action movie that is good as forgettable fluff. Because it knows its place in the cinematic landscape, it exploits the some of the elements that would otherwise try to be smoothed over to favor a more high-brow audience.

The filmmakers emphasize the fun of the movie: the beautiful Amber Heard, fast cars, loud guns, guitar-driven rock and an obvious split between the good and bad guys. These are not only what make the film succeed, but also what bring it down. The elements are things that every audience everywhere has seen before.

There is nothing new here, and the envelope is never pushed or even touched at all. This movie only works in its self-aware augmentation and subsequent exaggeration of the low-brow ingredients. What does not work (and usually does not ever) is Nicolas Cage. Someone needs to tell him he can turn down a part. His heavy-handed delivery of oddly emphasized would-be one-liners may not entirely be his fault, but his flat facial expression and uninspired emoting are.

In a rare age-appropriate role, Cage plays a newly-grandfathered criminal out for revenge, a simple emotional journey he still cannot quite muster. The audience is never empathetic or even sympathetic to Cage’s pathetic portrayal of what could have been a nuanced performance. But none of this comes as a surprise to anyone familiar with Cage’s body of work. He’s the Schwarzenegger of the new millennium, just not as self-aware, politically inclined or skilled. Cage’s wooden performance can not tell a lie because it is apparent on his face when he tries to be something other than Nicolas Cage.

The story, which ultimately has some intrigue, is unfortunately hidden behind a wall of plot. The whole movie is a journey, and it takes until the end to find out why this journey is so important. Most of the movie therefore just feels frustratingly meandering. By the time all is revealed and the destination approaching, not much is left to happen except to open a big ass can of whoop ass. Unfortunately the can seems to have sprung a leak because the huge firefight ending promised since the beginning leaves more than a little to be desired. Sure there is lots of shooting, but none of it is very exciting or imaginative. And that really sums up the whole movie: a lot of promise with just a little delivery, which I guess is better than no delivery.

This could have been another Avatar as far as the 3D elements are concerned. Bullets and muscle cars can be so much cooler in 3D, if it is done correctly. Unfortunately, Drive Angry (what is with that title, anyway?) cannot quite make the most of its 3D medium. Careful choreography and cinematography could have elevated the ho-hum action into a new dimension (pun definitely intended). Pointed guns and flying cars beg for a properly planned and executed 3D treatment, but this is not it. The visceral nature of action movie are perhaps the best application of the budding technology and more (better) 3D action movies are sure to come.

This is not a movie many anticipate to see, but with a group of friends out to enjoy a popcorn-fueled (again, pun intended) suspension of disbelief, Drive Angry just may meet the quota. Yes, the 3D is neat; there is plenty of mechanical and organic eye candy (and a surprising amount of non-sexual nudity) and explosions. But with all of this comes Nicolas Cage, heavy-handed film making and eye roll-inducing dialog. Drive Angry is a good time with no surprises or new storytelling ideas. It is something everyone has seen time and time again, just this time in 3D. Drive Angry is not bad enough to be a cult classic and not good enough to be a guilty pleasure.

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