Ah, Nicolas Cage. I am not alone in recognizing this amazing level to which he has risen in recent years. It’s a level of sublimity navigated by an actor taking leading roles in any number of dodgy, outrageous movies, presumably largely for the paycheck, but who loves to amp himself up for each film and relishing the chewing of scenery.
It’s not some snooty, high-minded calling of craft. These roles and films are far from Oscar bait. But he makes these films worth seeing. I often think to myeself, “How crazy is he going to get in this one?” The plot lines and film titles tell you about all you need to know. All I needed to hear was Nicolas Cage in “Drive Angry” and I was in. It didn’t even matter what the film was about. (Actually, it was Drive Angry 3-D in the theaters, part of this hopefully short-lived revival of 3-D movie-making. But frankly, it kinda suggested further the potential silliness.)
Drive Angry is a more self-aware action film with supernatural overtones. Cage plays John Milton (Paradise Lost reference, anyone?), who is driving angrily after the devil-worshipping preacher and his clan who killed Cage’s daughter and kidnapped his infant granddaughter. They want to sacrifice the baby to Satan. He meets up with tough girl, Piper (played by Amber Heard), and tracks down the villains. He is pursued by William Fichtner, who refers to himself as The Accountant, who is rather obviously outed as “supernatural” pursuer of the angry driving Cage.
Written by Michael De Luca and directed by Patrick Lussier, the team behind My Bloody Valentine (2009) seem to be having a lot more fun here. The film has many moments, and Cage gets a number of catch-phrase-worthy lines. You almost wonder how many of those he crafted himself, as he is known to do quite often in films. It’s all knowingly over-the-top and teeming with camp, a kind of wink-wink-nudge-nudge self-awareness that would never have existed in an action film even back in the 1980’s. While it’s possibly an aspect of post-modernism that whether a film is referencing directly to other films or simply acknowledging conventions by over-amping them, there is a trend in action films/horror films of late to ride high on being “over the top” in any number of ways.
Is it a good film? I don’t know. Not really. On DVD, without the 3-D glasses, there are a number of obvious shots that were meant to exploit that effect, so knowingly throwing things at the camera lens and the audiences’ laps. I guess the film isn’t quite as clever as it would like to be, with its John Milton references and tongue in cheek moments. Actually, though that knowing irony adds levels of extremity to some scenes (in one Cage never stops the act of sex while he shoots down a bunch of would-be pursuers), it almost makes you yearn for a more earnest story, something that really believed in itself, rather than letting you know that the film-makers are in on all the jokes.
It is a fine example of a 2011 Nicolas Cage film, whatever this era of his career will come to be defined as. Something for cult fans, there is surely a cult of Nicolas Cage, right? I can’t be the only one. With the weird array of other coming films (and others that I still need to see), he’s developing an entertaining grab bag of an oeuvre. And for me, I say, keep ’em coming.