I try to ignore box office reports. It’s not as if they are any indication of quality and I know full well that my tastes don’t match up with that of the general public’s anyway. I say that not out of reverse snobbery, but as someone who has watched many a great movie fizzle and starve at the box office only to become everybody’s BFF later. In any case, the fumes from DRIVE ANGRY’s theatrical crash and burn were hard for me to ignore. The movie, by the fine folks who delivered me my pet fave slasher remake MY BLOODY VALENTINE, came in a pathetically lousy ninth place in its opening weekend and somehow shamefully behind a week-old BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE sequel. Ouch!
Because the movie involved cars I thought I might ignore it completely, but it’s stunning failure ignited my vulture instincts. I knew I had to see DRIVE ANGRY partially to throw 12 dollars into the director and writer’s hat out of respect for making me so happy with VALENTINE and partially because I wanted to perch and stare at it like one of those creepy death predicting hospital cats. Unsurprisingly I totally ended up enjoying the semi-insane movie as director PATRICK LUSSIER and writer TODD FARMER really do have a quality collaborative relationship going on and again, this is coming from somebody who thinks cars have ruined the world and should be replaced by moving sidewalks and jet-packs as soon as possible.
Some may think that a major factor in the movie’s financial failure is the fact that audiences are frightened of being trapped in a theater with NICOLAS CAGE but have you seen BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL-NEW ORLEANS? It’s so damn good. I’m here to point the finger directly at the wishy-washy T.V. ad campaign that neglected to alert the proper audience to what was really going down in this flick. For some reason some goofy person decided to hide the fact that this movie involved a rampaging Satanic cult and that my friends is just dumb. Somebody should be fired immediately and his or her job should be handed to me. My Chauncey Gardiner insights could have saved millions of dollars. Nobody should ever be ashamed of rampaging Satanists and nobody should ever have to rely on my pity to get me to the theater!
Oh poor misunderstood DRIVE ANGRY, its schlocky charms and cheesy tomfoolery are easily misread as genuine hackneyed incompetence but it’s clearly winking and nudging the audience about the joys of exploitation at every turn. Folks who suffer from 3-D fatigue should recognize that director LUSSIER uses the effect to enhance the action rather than as an empty garnish. He knows what he’s doing and the end result expands the landscape rather than producing that dreaded cramped diorama effect. Writer FARMER has sculpted some wonderfully wacked-out characters too, characters that I’m sad the audience will unlikely have the chance to follow to further adventures. CAGE as Milton dips his rakish vengeance in paternal redemption; AMBER HEARD is a bucket of charm as the kick-ass waitress sick of waiting for life to start and WILLIAM FICHTNER nearly runs away with the entire film as “The Accountant,” a scene-swiping soldier from hell. There’s some TOM ATKINS too, maybe not enough to fill my gluttonous ATKINS diet, but every little bit helps.
I guess it’s too late to rally and stop this Titanic from sinking. Lead balloon or not I’m destined to prefer DRIVE ANGRY to the films whose trailers preceded it which will undoubtedly all be much bigger hit$ even though most of them looked like intolerably boring GYLLENHAAL-infused INCEPTION retreads. I feel that it is my duty to tell you though that if you enjoy super trashy action or seventies era road movies or anything that remotely resembles the great RACE WITH THE DEVIL, you’ll probably love this movie and if you want to see it properly with the ingrained 3-D effects intact then you have to do it quickly before it disappears. In the long run, box office success won’t mean much as I believe the cream will always rise to the top but I doubt there will be much cream in our future if we don’t support the filmmakers we enjoy now. The driving force of DRIVE ANGRY is its original offbeat Devil may-bite-me personality and it’s a real shame that that was exactly the selling point left by the side of the road in its advertising campaign’s attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Let this be a lesson to everyone; don’t hide your rampaging Satanic-cult light under a bushel!