Drive Angry

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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

7 January

Nicolas Cage born, 1964

On this day in 1964, Nicolas Coppola was born. The son of a literature professor and a choreographer, Cage is the grandson of Carmine Coppola, another of whose sons is Francis Ford Coppola (which makes the director his uncle). Cage decided that trading on the family name wasn’t for him, so changed his surname to Cage, though he was happy enough to take a leg-up by taking a role in Coppola’s cult item Rumble Fish. One of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, Cage is also one of its biggest earners and alternates between what might be called serious roles – Moonstruck, Leaving Las Vegas, Lord of War – and a style of gonzo film that Cage has made his own – Face/Off, Con Air, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Whichever it is, Cage remains the same, extremely focused, intense. It’s been called extreme acting, or “mega acting” (by outlawvern), while Ethan Hawke praises Cage’s abandonment of naturalism in favour of a kind of “presentation style of acting”. Cage himself describes it as “nouveau shamanic”. Cage’s bad films are rarely as bad as the critics suggest, and he has, though it’s often forgotten, won an Oscar, for Leaving Las Vegas, and was nominated for one for his barnstorming role in Adaptation, a film whose logic-scrambling plot was a perfect fit for Cage’s style. A comics fan, a buyer of castles and islands, a lover of luxury cars and a publicity-shy humanitarian who has given millions away, he remains an enigma – he was married to Lisa Marie Presley for only 12 weeks before divorce papers were filed – who seems to grasp that success and wealth allow more scope for experiment, in life and at work. A lesson many of his contemporaries could usefully heed.

Drive Angry (2011, dir: Patrick Lussier)

A splendidly mad work of tongue-in-cheek grindhouse, Drive Angry is the sort of film you could imagine Quentin Tarantino wanting to make and stars Nic Cage in another of his improbable-hair roles (bad blond this time), this time as an escapee from Hell who is back on earth to save the daughter of his daughter (tellingly, the word “grand-daughter” is never used), a waif who has been kidnapped by a gang of devil worshippers. It’s a chase movie in other words, with Cage in hot pursuit in a souped up vee-hickle. Along for the ride is Amber Heard, the former scream queen on co-star duty in this film and so allowed to keep her clothes on. Most of the other women in the film don’t, and in the film’s key scene Cage remains fully clothed while boning a waitress, smoking a cigar and shooting bad guys simultaneously. It is a very funny film, with William Fichtner if anything even funnier than Cage, playing another fugitive from Hell, an avenging angel called the Accountant – merciless, brutal and ridiculously camp. Yes, it goes off a bit at the end, but then most films do, until then we’ve had lots of action in a Dodge Charger (the go-to car for movie bad-assery) – registration plate DRV AGRY, bumper sticker “I brake for pussy” – an awful lot of badass-motherfucker language, some fabulous scenes of extreme ballbusting by a great Heard, lots of dopy 3D and even more ropey SFX. It’s two thirds brilliant, one third so-so. Tip: concentrate on the former.

Why Watch?

  • Everyone follows Cage’s weird wired lead
  • A film including a Dodge Charger is usually worth look
  • Cage plays a character called John Milton
  • The woo-hoo waitress/cigar/guns scene

Drive Angry – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2014

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