I know, I know, Nicolas Cage is out of control. He’s forcing iguanas into movies (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), doing movies simply because he’s always wanted to be a knight (Season of the Witch), and not being cast as super villains because, for unknown reasons, he insists on using a Jamaican accent (Green Hornet). (With the exception of Kick-Ass) Nic Cage appears to have been deliberately making absolute stinkers for years. And I guess while he just couldn’t wait for the act of cinema-terrorism that will be Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance (2012), he had to get his fill of being a hell-based driver of a vehicle in Drive Angry 3D. I imagine he took the roll to expand his acting chops–“Well,” Cage thought to himself, “I’ve already mastered being someone from hell who drives a motorcycle, but I have yet to be someone from hell who drives a car… I’ll do it!”
It is no surprise that Drive Angry has been a failure (it has an estimated budget of around $50,000,000 and has made less than 10,000,000, according to IMDB). For starters, it’s premise is absurd (“A vengeful father escapes from hell and chases after the men who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter.”), and this premise is not clearly articulated in the movie (even when it is explained), and virtually everything else about it done poorly, and is laughable.
BUT the fact that the film is laughable is the average person’s key to enjoying Drive Angry. I saw it a few days ago and had a really fun (yes, FUN) time watching it. I saw it with my friend Jordan right after I finished student teaching for the day (I went home to change out of my dress clothes first, and in hind sight, I wish I hadn’t–I think it would’ve been cool to be the only person to ever watch Drive Angry while wearing a suit. And, yes, I am assuming that even at the premier, the Hollywood viewers didn’t wear suits, but probably Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirts and sweat pants, instead) and there was only one other person, an old man, in the theater with us. With our overpriced 3D glasses, and sneaked-in candy, we had the best time watching Nicolas Cage at his craziest since Bad Lieutenant.
Are you curious as to how you can also enjoy a terrible Nicolas Cage movie, specifically Drive Angry? Well, here are some tips!
1. Pretend Nicolas Cage is improvising all of his lines.
As if you aren’t already suspending your disbelief enough by attempting to believe that Cage plays a loving grandfather escaping from hell to save his granddaughter from a cult, which needs to kill his granddaughter for a reason none of us are sure of, you might want to try imagining that Drive Angry was once a simple revenge story that had to be continually altered and adjusted by the director as Nicolas Cage improvised lines (and therefore plot) in the movie. This is pretty easy to imagine when you see an instance of pure nonsense–potentially Cage’s real craziness coming through in his performance–like when a young waitress is hitting on Cage’s character, [John] Milton (named after the author of Paradise Lost?), after giving him coffee, and he’s not into it, but still grabs her head to give her a rough, hard kiss anyway, and then growls, “You forgot sugar.” What?! Why did that happen?
Milton is not very familiar with technology (except for smoking, broken-down cars, which he can fix for hot girls on the side of the road, even if he barely touches something under the car’s hood)–especially cell phones. This is another good chance for you, the audience, to pretend that Nicolas Cage has stopped acting for a minute, and so the reason Milton doesn’t know what a cell phone is is because Cage doesn’t know what a cell phone is in real life.
At one point Milton tells Jonah King, the Satanic cult leader (Billy Burke), that he is going to drink whiskey from his skull or something to that effect. This is a pretty goofy line, something I’d like to imagine was improvised by Cage (Milton really does drink out of Jonah King’s skull at the end). I like to also imagine the director saying to the props people, “Well, Nic said he wants to drink out of a skull…I know, it isn’t in the script, just make me a skull he can drink out of! What? Yes, he probably wants real whiskey in it.”
2. Don’t be bothered by blood.
There are some gory parts that take place in this movie, but they are all pretty cartoonish, and not very frequent. But, I realize that some people are bothered by blood, so I thought I should mention that you need to be prepared for that if you are going to attempt to enjoy Drive Angry. For example, you need to be able to handle a face-melting scene followed by a skull-drinking scene in the last ten minutes of the movie. It really isn’t that bad though–the worst that can happen is you’ll be reminded of how much better Raiders of the Lost Arc is compared to this.
3. Be aware of what you are getting into.
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give. Do NOT go in to this movie thinking that you are going to learn more about the world or yourself, or think you will leave a better person in any way. A person of even average intelligence trying to enjoy Drive Angry needs to understand that this movie is campy and absurd–it is a joke, and it is important to be aware of that so that one can be in on that joke. The movie even first takes place in a place called Laughter, Colorado, for goodness sake.
Just accept things as they happen in Drive Angry and you’ll be a much happier person watching. Don’t think too much about the fact that Milton stole a god-killing 5-barrel shotgun from Satan (I presume off the gun rack in his den or something) that he does not use to kill any gods, and also can only hold three bullets (Oh, and these bullets do different things each time they are fired). Don’t think too much about the fact that Milton’s cars are occasionally invincible (at the beginning of the movie) and can occasionally can be torn apart like newspaper (throughout most of the movie). Don’t think too much about how similar the delivery and tone of Cage’s line “Give me the baby” is to Cage’s line “Put the bunny back in the box” in Con Air. And especially don’t think too much about the sex scene that takes place when a skanky waitress is completely naked, and Milton is fully clothed (including a leather jacket and sunglasses), while he is smoking a comically-large cigar, holding a full bottle of whiskey in one hand, and a gun in the other, which turns into a shoot-out scene in which Milton kills a room full of goons while continuing to have sex, smoke, and hold on to a bottle of Jack. I suggest just letting these dumb moments roll by, and just laugh at the fact that someone (read: Nicolas Cage) thought these ideas were good ideas.
4. Pretend the film is intended as a religious statement, sponsored by the Catholic Church.
Though the plot is pretty unclear about how killing a baby will bring about hell on earth, it is clear that this is a bad thing (interesting, considering that the dead in hell can apparently escape to walk the earth, and steal guns from Satan, pretty easily). I like to imagine that the Catholic Church helped write the script, and provided funds for the movie, in order to teach today’s youth about the dangers of hell, Satan, cults, Satanic cults, and domestic abuse, and scare them out of naughty lifestyles. If this is too ridiculous for you (if your imagination just can’t handle it!) then apply tip #4 to tip #3.
5. Just look at Nicolas Cage.
Nicolas Cage’s hair is like bad poetry written by a 10th grade girl, you can’t stop admiring how someone put so much work into something so awful. Cage looks like Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, but creepier.
And if you need some audio to compliment what you are seeing, then Drive Angry has quite a treat for you! Pretty much any time Cage does anything “awesome,” a bad guitar solo plays in the background. Sensory overload.
I found these strategies to be very helpful during my viewing of Drive Angry 3D (by the way, the 3D really doesn’t add much to the movie. I guess 3D credits are always kind of cool for some reason). And tip numbers 1, 3, and 5 will pretty much work in any Nicolas Cage movie ever–from Face/Off to The Wicker Man. I hope I have helped you on your journey through film hell.