Drive Angry directed by Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D) is an action thriller with a resolutely trashy grindhouse ethos. This weekend should you require an antidote to the Academy Awards’ hauteur pretentiousness and altogether unreasonable commitment to quality this lowbrow orgy of carnage nudity and roaring muscle cars will surely do the trick. Then again so will a few episodes of Jersey Shore. But that show unlike Drive Angry isn’t available in eye-bludgeoning 3D. Yet.
The film stars Nicolas Cage as John Milton a cigar-chomping Jack Daniels-swilling ex-con who has escaped from hell (literally) to save his granddaughter from being sacrificed by an apocalyptic cult. Fear not B-movie aficionados: The character’s name a winking nod to the author of Paradise Lost is about the only discernibly literary or philosophical element to be found in Drive Angry which otherwise keeps its aim squarely below the waist. Knowledge of Milton’s 17th-century epic poem or of literature in general is not required for the enjoyment of this film. In fact it might hinder it.
Some films inadvertently earn the “so-bad-it’s-good” label; Drive Angry aspires to it. The plot is spotty and nonsensical crafted mainly to connect the dots between bloody spurts of stylized mayhem. Milton drifts through various small southern towns populated entirely with louts and sluts leaving behind a trail of bodyparts as he rushes to confront the cult leader (Billy Burke) who abducted his granddaughter and who intends to offer her up to the Dark Lord at the next full moon.
Along the way he picks up a sidekick Piper (Amber Heard) a pugilistic potty-mouth in daisy dukes included in the film for the very express purpose of giving us something pretty to look at betwixt the gory shootouts and car chases – a considerate gesture on the part of the filmmakers truth be told. She is however only tangentially related to the plot. Which would be a problem if plot were a priority.
Drive Angry’s holy triumvirate of sex violence and muscle cars merges into one unified splatter-drenched whole during the film’s climax in which Milton launches his ’69 Dodge Charger into the center of an orgiastic cult gathering picking off with a shotgun the few revelers he can’t run over before finally following through on his pledge to drink a bottle of beer from the skull of his dead nemesis. This is actually one of the film's more endearing moments.
Cage for his part has a few moments of inspired batshitry my favorite being a scene in which he enjoys a bizarre sexually charged exchange with a randy waitress before pulling her in for a sloppy French kiss but for the most part his eccentricity is disappointingly muted. He’s more of a grim gunslinger out of the Sergio Leone mold in Drive Angry shooting much and saying little which doesn’t leave much room for those manic outbursts I’ve come to regard with such genuine affection.
Slyly stealing the show from Cage in Drive Angry is the man who pursues him The Accountant played by esteemed character actor William Fichtner. A sort of bounty hunter sent by the devil to bring Milton back to hell The Accountant moves with a kind of creepy grace his utter disregard for conventions of personal space throwing every character he encounters off-balance. Fichtner’s wry observations are the comedic highlight of a movie that tries hard to ape the dark offbeat humor of Tarantino's Death Proof but falls woefully short in the end.
Heaven. Hell. Us humans in the middle. It's all very complicated. But John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) seems to have a handle on it. Born with a gift he says no human should ever have he has the ability to see what he calls "half-breeds"--angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin (and apparently there are a lot of them). Of course the horror of it is too much to bear and Constantine tries to take his own life. But he fails. Now having been to hell and back again quite literally Constantine is marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life. He patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell acting as an exorcist of sorts. Of course the guy isn't doing it because he feels empathy for the human race or anything. It's for purely selfish reasons. He hopes that if he sends the devil's foot soldiers back to the depths he'll gain some kind of redemption a free get-out-of-jail card so to speak. Constantine's attitude changes however when a skeptical police detective Angela (Rachel Weisz) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister. They end up uncovering a twisted master plan brewing between the demons and angels which could bring about a catastrophic series of otherworldly events. Perfect.
John Constantine is a little like The Matrix's Neo--an ultra-cool but tormented man of little words with a sardonic fatalistic outlook on life who kicks a myriad of nasty-looking demons (instead of a myriad of nasty-looking machines) back from whence they came. Yes Reeves has done this before but that's because he's good at it. You can't blame him for sticking with something that works. Weisz also holds her own as the devoutly religious Angela who nonetheless has a hard time believing there are actual angels and demons running around among us. That is of course until she spends about 10 minutes with Constantine and sees just how real they are. As far as the rest of the humans in the film Shia LaBeouf (Holes) does a nice comical turn as Constantine's sidekick and protégé while Djimon Hounsou (In America) works his voodoo mojo as a witch doctor who has a long-standing if strained relationship with Constantine. The not-so-human counterparts are equally intriguing. Peter Stormare (Fargo) delivers a somewhat over-the-top but devilishly eccentric performance as Satan. Tilda Swinton (The Deep End) dons the wings of the arch-angel Gabriel to whom Constantine is always asking for a reprieve but who has got her own agenda.
Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo comic-book Hellblazer Constantine is demonic eye candy. Obviously inspired by the many music videos he's helmed in the past director Francis Lawrence making his feature film debut paints a pretty dark and moody world with shadowy wet rat-infested (or cockroach-infested) corners that hide the horrific demon half-breeds as well as all other kinds of terrible baddies. Then when we get into Hades itself where the demons and seplavites--a sub-genre of the damned who are sightless mindless soul eaters--prowl it's an apocalyptic landscape. Lovely place. Unfortunately the script isn't nearly as stimulating. It must be an arduous task adapting a series of comic books so to his credit screenwriter Kevin Brodbin does do a nice job introducing us to Constantine and his world. But Brodbin seems to have incorporated too much. As the action escalates more and more plot points and characters are thrown in complicating matters. By the time the long-winded climax is over you're exhausted.
Imagine wearing the heaviest winter clothing, sitting in the hot tropical sun all day and having very little water. This is the plight of seven polar bears who travel with a circus in Puerto Rico--but not for long, if Scottish actor Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge; Black Hawk Down) has anything to do with it. He has written an open letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton on behalf of the charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), requesting the polar bears be transferred to an accredited zoo in the United States.
McGregor became interested in polar bears when he hosted a British Broadcasting Corp. documentary about the arctic animals last year. "Polar bears are intelligent animals who are specially adapted to freezing weather conditions," the actor wrote in the letter.
She knows what she did last summer. Singer/actress Brandy (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer), 23, is expecting her first child with her husband, producer Robert Smith, whom she secretly wed last summer. The baby is due sometime in July.
Comic strip feline Garfield will be staying at home these days. Garfield creator Jim Davis has decided to sell his private twin-engine Dassault Falcon 20F-5 jet since he no longer needs to travel as much as he used to. The jet is being offered for $7.6 million and is advertised as "an aircraft fit for a fat cat."
An unidentified woman decided The Rosie O'Donnell Show was as good as any place to flash her breasts. On Thursday's live show in New York, the woman opened her blouse as the camera panned the audience before a commercial break. When the show resumed, Rosie quipped, "A crazy woman...is now with security, waiting to get into the Montel show."
Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert announced Wednesday he will undergo surgery to remove a cancerous growth on his thyroid. "I am told this type of tumor is slow-growing and not aggressive, and that my prognosis is excellent for a quick and complete recovery," Ebert said in a statement. The movie critic had similar surgery in 1987.
A French court Thursday turned down a Catholic group's request to ban a poster designed by Oliviero Toscani for the independent film Amen. The court ruled the image, which blends a cross with a red swastika, fairly depicts the subject matter of the film, examining how the Vatican's silence during the Holocaust made it partially responsible for the millions of Jewish lives lost.
A Venezuelan actor, Juan Carlos Diaz, who has been harassing singer Gloria Estefan and her music mogul husband, Emilio, for two years, was arrested Thursday for allegedly trespassing on the couple's mansion on Star Island in Miami Beach. As well as trespassing, Diaz has publicly accused Emilio of making unwanted sexual advances toward him, while the music producer, who has denied all charges, has filed a defamation suit against the troubled actor.
The California Supreme Court Thursday overturned the state's "Son of Sam" law preventing criminals from selling their stories for profit, citing its violation to a criminal's state and federal First Amendment rights. This decision came about after Barry Keenan, who kidnapped Frank Sinatra Jr. in 1963, challenged the law, which was preventing him from selling the rights to his story to Columbia Pictures for $485,000.
British actor John Thaw, best known for playing the gruff Oxford sleuth Inspector Morse in the BBC TV series Inspector Morse, died Thursday in Wiltshire, England, from cancer of the esophagus. He was 60. Sheila Hancock and three children survive Thaw.