By every stretch of the imagination, Drive Angry should be a bad movie. Low budget car-chase action flick with demons battling from hell on southern highways? I mean, it's even got Nicholas "Wicker Man" Cage in it. This should definitely suck. Then why is it so damned enjoyable?
Maybe it's because this movie comes right at you with the full intention of being everything that it is without even flinching, let alone apologizing. You want an action/horror flick with gunfights, explosions, foul language, car chases, and plenty of nudity to fill in the gaps? You've got it in spades. Drive Angry throws enough blood, bullets and f-bombs at you in the first ten minutes that it almost starts to feel surreal. In a market where most action films do their best to tone down the sex and violence enough to squeeze a PG-13 out of the final watered-down product, Drive Angry opens the floodgates and reminds the viewer what exploitation action cinema is all about.
You can't get too hung up on the plot: the film doesn't give you the chance. A brief glimpse of Hell as a maximum-security prison is all we get before a muscle car slams through the gates, and the next thing we know, Nicholas Cage is flipping trucks and blowing off body parts with a shotgun. The premise of a prisoner of Hell escaping o earth to save his granddaughter from being sacrificed by a devil worshiping cult is so basic that the film doesn't bother dwelling on it too long - Instead, it doles out ten-second portions of the minute-long plot summary throughout the film in between car chases and gun fights.
Much like the horror film Slither, Drive Angry is a film made by people who love films like this, and you can feel joy and attitude the filmmakers and performers poured into it with every action sequence and nude scene. The characters and action sequences are so stylized you would swear the film was adapted from a comic book, and I mean that in a good way. The writing isn't what you might call original, which is fine; you can tell the writer's are trying to make a fun movie, and not a groundbreaking cinematic treasure. But even the cheesiest lines in the film (and there are a few) manage to stifle the groans they should illicit, because you're just having too much fun to judge.
The performances are almost top-notch across the board. Billy Burke pulls off the charismatic cult leader Jonah King with enough malevolence to secure his place as the bad guy, yet keeps him fun and entertaining as well. When he says he's going to kill a woman then defile her corpse, you not only believe that he means it, you can tell he's going to enjoy it. Amber Heard would be otherwise unforgettable in her female sidekick role if it weren't for the writing behind her character, Piper. Piper isn't just a boring action film tough-as-nails female character; she is so deliciously white-trash and vulgar that you have no problem with her tagging along with an undead convict because she has nothing else better to do. Even Nicholas Cage gives a passable performance as he runs around looking like Kevin Costner's evil twin. Cage Haters will no doubt lambaste him for what might appear to be a wooden performance, but his refuge from Hell character Milton is purposely driven and dedicated to an almost humorously focused degree, and he acts as monotone and subdued as one might expect someone to be after spending a couple of decades hanging out in Hell.
But William Fichtner steals the movie as The Accountant who tracks down Milton in order to return him to his Hellish Cell Block. Fichtner takes a role that could have easily devolved into a pale imitation of Agent Smith from The Matrix, and turns it into the character you're always happy to see the minute he appears. He masterfully weaves subtlety and nuance into a straight-faced delivery that will have you rewinding his scenes just to see the expression on his face a second time.
Above all else, this movie is everything it sets out to be: a hard-edged, graphic action film that avoids melodrama and instead lets you know that it is having as much fun as you are. And you will have fun.