I've become very good at avoiding commercials. In terms of movies, it means that I get to walk into some completely blind, which is nice. On the other hand, some movies escape my attention completely. Based on the DVD cover, for all I knew, this could have been a sequel to another movie I'd seen.
I don't know why I would make this connection.
So the first thing that I think needs to be said is that this is not a car movie. I mean, if you're looking for a car movie, there's probably enough here that you won't be disappointed. But if you watched this movie without knowing the title or seeing the promotional poster, you're not going to walk out thinking you'd just seen a car movie.
No, you'd probably walk out thinking "grindhouse". You've got the gratuitous nudity and violence, and something of a late-70's feel to the filmmaking. If I were to walk into the room in the middle of certain shots, I might think this was an older movie. Oh, and lots of old cars.
But there's another element to the movie as well.. a few minutes in, as they're talking about rituals and full moons, I got the sense that things were going to get weird. I was right. I don't know what trailers may have revealed, but I'm keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible.
Nicholas Cage plays Milton. We establish in the first seen that Milton is looking for someone, when he brutally kills a couple of said person's lackeys and leaves the third alive to send a message. The connection between the two characters unfolds over the course of the movie. I had a conversation about Cage not too long back... how he's the most hit-or-miss guy in Hollywood. When Cage is on, he's awesome. But even if you love Cage, you have to admit that a significant ratio of his movies were pretty bad. In this case, I think he turns in a weak performance, but not enough to make the movie unwatchable.
He picks up a pretty girl along the way, named Piper. She's entertaining, but I reached a point in the movie that I wondered why Milton is still dragging her along.
Jonah King is the guy that Milton is looking for. When you first see him, you instantly get a religious cult leader vibe. I wonder if it's a coincidence that the guy they cast as King happens to look like a young Stephen King to me.
"You know what this badge means, right? Federal Bureau of get the **** out of my way!"
The final major character is simply called "The Accountant", played by William Fichtner. Fichtner first caught my attention as part of the cast of Prison Break, and it's been a thrill for me every time he's popped up in anything since. Coincidentally, Den of Geek just did a write-up on him earlier this week. I skipped what they said about this film at the time, but going back to it now, they put it into words better than I did:
"It's so unusual to find a film where an actor seems to single-handedly outclass everything around him, feeling almost independent from any direction. Fichtner actually seems to have been spliced from a different league of film entirely and transplanted into Drive Angry as a saving grace."
As I had just written before I went back to that article: he steals the movie. I wish this movie had been "The Accountant"; I doubt this movie did enough business to justify a spin-off, unfortunately. I don't want to say anymore, because it's more fun if the character reveals himself.
I called this grindhouse, but don't go expecting anything on the Robert Rodriguez level here... but if you're looking for a double-feature to watch with Machete, this is a passable starter. Barely passable, though.... it it weren't for my Fichtner playing the accountant, I think this movie might have felt like a chore to get through. Two-and-a-half stars for the movie itself, plus another full star for the accountant, to give this film three-and-a-half stars.