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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Drive Angry

May 28th, 2011

Drive Angry - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray, or 3D Blu-ray

When it comes to reviewing movies, I try to go in with an open mind. Sometimes this is more difficult, because a film's box office numbers leave such a powerful impression. Such is the case with Drive Angry, which only made $10.7 million theatrically. Had it opened with $10.7 million, it would have still been disappointing. It held the record as the lowest grossing 3-D wide release of all time, for nearly two months. Was it really that bad? Or was it unfairly ignored by moviegoers?

The Movie

The film starts with The Accountant explaining that since the beginning of mankind, there have always been prisons, and since the beginning of mankind, people have always tried to escape justice. When people escape from the ultimate prison, Hell, it's his job to get them back.

John Milton is one of those escapees. At the beginning, we don't know why he escaped, but we know he's on a mission to rescue a girl and he's willing to do just about anything to get her back, including kill people in ways that look impressive in 3-D. After destroying several limbs and killing a couple of people, he does get the name of a place, Stillwater Marsh, but he's not sure where that is. While at a diner, he gets a ride with Piper, a waitress who recently quit her job after being sexually harassed by her boss for the last time. Milton gets her to give him a lift to her place, where she discovers her fiancee, Frank, cheating on her, and they he starts beating her when she tries to leave in his car. (She was the one making all of the payments.) She's tough enough to hold her own, for a while, and when Frank starts to get the upper hand, Milton helps her out and the pair continue to Stillwater Marsh.

Along the way, we learn more about Milton's mission, partly through flashbacks, and partially through more exposition-heavy scenes, what's going on. Without too many spoilers, after he was killed, his daughter fell into the grip of a cult, led by Jonah King. At first she thought it was just a political movement, but when she found out it was into the occult and she tried to leave. Because of this, Jonah killed his daughter and plans to sacrifice his granddaughter in order to bring about the end of the world. Milton plans to stop that. But to do so, he has to avoid The Accountant, get past a ton of cops, and kill his way through even more cultists.

That's enough of the plot. In fact, that's more plot than you need. This is a film that thrives on style, on the grindhouse excesses, to the point where plot is secondary. Does it succeed in this goal? Mostly. It is a very well made B-movie experience that understands the appeal these films have to their target demographic. Granted, this target demographic is quite small and if you are not in it, there's not much else to hang on to. The film's pace is also an issue at times, as it does slow down from time to time. When the film isn't going at full pace, it's suffers considerably and it is clearly at its best when it is the most over-the-top. There are plenty of those scenes, although the final confrontation is not one of them and is sadly rather anti-climactic, and occasionally the film is a little too stylized for its own good, but fans of B-movies in general, and car chase films in particular, should be entertained.

Strangely, Nicolas Cage's performance is almost too toned down, especially compared to the general feel of the rest of the film. Amber Head was great in the movie and I'm glad she got to kick ass and wasn't a romantic foil for Nicolas Cage. However, the best performance was by William Fichtner as The Accountant. He had just the right amount of cool demeanor and twitchy quirks to fit right in. Even when acting in the most outlandish scenes, the hydrogen fuel truck, he managed to be grounded. Well, sort of. Grounded in a grindhouse way, not grounded as in reality.

On a side note, the film was clearly made to be seen in 3-D and uses the extra dimension to its full potential. ... If by "full potential" you mean hurling things at the camera. It's cheesy, it's gratuitous, it's in full B-Movie mode.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD are limited to an audio commentary track with the director, Patrick Lussier, and the co-writer, Todd Farmer. There are also two short deleted scenes, also with optional audio commentary.

The Blu-ray allows you to watch the movie in Access: Drive Angry mode, which includes three options: Cast & Crew Insights, Milton's Mayhem, and Did You Know?. The first is a Picture-in-Picture commentary track with the cast and crew, which is very informative and they talk about shooting the film on a lower than average budget, with discussion on how the script came about, character bits, etc. Milton's Mayhem keeps score of all the carnage John Milton inflicts throughout the movie. Finally, Did You Know? is your basic trivia track.

I don't have the 3D version of the movie, but I have heard good things about how well it was implemented on the Blu-ray.

As for the technical presentation of the Blu-ray, it's amazing, but this shouldn't surprise many people, as it was shot digitally. The level of detail is extremely high, the colors truly pop, the black levels are as deep as one would hope for, there are no hints of compressions, etc. On the other hand, the video is so amazing, that sometimes the computer effects stand out a little too much as a result. I guess one could argue that helps with the B-movie feel. The audio is just as strong with all surround sound speakers being given a workout, without overpowering the dialogue.

The 3D Blu-ray is also a reasonable price compared to the regular Blu-ray at just 32% more, while the Blu-ray is just 27% more than the DVD. For a film that shines on High Definition and includes extras that push the technology, this is a great deal.

The Verdict

Drive Angry is a movie made for fans of Grindhouse cinema and if you are not a fan, you don't need to bother showing up. If you are a fan, the DVD is worth renting, while the Blu-ray and the 3D Blu-ray are worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Drive Angry