DVD Review: Last winter before a late-night screening of Drive Angry, a fellow critic and I may or may not have had a handful of berry Mojitos we found on special at the theater bar. The next 90 minutes were… unsettling. There follows here a reprint of my best attempt at bearing witness to what I saw.
And lo, through the hard-R fires of the unholy Meat Loaf, I beheld a dark figure burning rubber out of Hell behind the wheel of a ’69 Charger, and his hair was a dirty, bottle-blond helmet of awesomeness, as if he were going to up-sell me appetizers at TGIFridays. And I asked, “Who is this hellspawn driver with the crazy eyes and supernatural hairline?” And a voice said, “It is The Cage. And he is angry. While driving.”
Fiery came The Cage, a dead man burst free the confines of Hell to rescue his infant granddaughter from the murdering clutches of a Satanic cult. And his ghost-riding name was “John Milton,” because in this scorched land of demonic exploitation, of Dirty Mary’s tongue in Crazy Larry’s cheek, subtlety is for the weak and the unicorn lovers.
At Milton’s side rode a human waitress full of sass and tight of top–she was Amber Heard and in her butt-kicking presence the fanboys did lick their gummi lips and clutch their limited-edition Stepfather Blu-rays in stammering adulation.
Pursue’d this pair was by William Fichtner, fearsome Underworld Accountant, wryly channeling The Prophecy‘s Mr. Walken with sharpened suit and vicious smirk. Was this the Fichtner who once bedeviled The Swayze in Ghost and recently menaced Jason Statham in The Mechanic? (No, you’re thinking of Tony Goldwyn. William Fichter was in Date Night and Armageddon.) Oh right, and Last House on the Left! (Nope, Goldwyn again.) Um, the bank manager at the start of Dark Knight? (Yes! That’s Fichtner! And he puts the “undead” in “deadpan” and steals this show’s seedy soul.)
And suddenly there was among them the nice dad from Twilight, here a cult-leading dirt bag birthed in shame from The Long-Departed Elvis by way of Jim Jones and Aleister Crowley. There followed much shotgun splatter, for against all laws of God, Satan, and Driver’s Ed, The Cage was shooting while driving, knocking limbs off those who opposed him as one might shatter lawn gnomes with a three wood.
Heavy revved the 440 engine and bloodily the body parts flew. Beware the wayward hand! Duck ye the soaring jawbone! As the mayhem did continue, came with it the gratuitous roadhouse nudity, the roaring rock and the sleazy roll, the Forget You sunglasses, and the swigging of the Daniels, Jack. To the action rose even sweet Amber, dispatching one goon with a garden tool–truly death by ho(e).
Always center was The Cage, his wild-eyed momentum unchecked, his locks of golden straw unencumbered by deep conditioner. Trembled did all who found themselves in his path, and cried out, “Why?” Came the answer: “Because the IRS won’t let you pay back taxes with collectible dinosaur skulls and comic books.”
Struggle mightily I did with it all, for there wafted the stench of faux ‘70s exploitation cheese, a stupid-cool spin out in Tarantino land, sans the subtext. Here was a brimstone Race With the Devil without Warren Oates or Peter Fonda. A high-octane Vanishing bereft of Point.
Yet as the engines roared and the crimson flowed, what giggling lizard-brain fun there was to be had, as if watching Smokey chase the Bandit straight down to Hades. In time my vision dimmed, and as The Cage strained his last grimace I grasped the meaning: When all is said and done and the final orange fireball fades, ’tis better to steal a muscle car in Hell than own a Prius in Heaven.
Postscript: Months later, in the sober light of home video, I admit to kinda loving this movie and having squeezed quite a bit of silly enjoyment out of its sloppy, hot-rod hellfire, B-movie excesses.
You can see more of The Cage in Face/Off, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on DVD and Blu-ray, Kick-Ass on DVD and Blu-ray, and Snake Eyes.