Genre-unto-himself Nicolas Cage’s latest displays much the same tattoo-parlor hellfire imagery as Ghost Rider, but this is the hard-R version, with Johnny Blaze’s jellybeans from a goblet in the earlier film now replaced by a cold after-work beer drunk from a human skull. Cage plays a black-denim God’s Lonely Man, a stranger in town on a sworn mission to ride down the cult fronted by Billy Burke’s glam-messiah, who has absconded with a baby girl. Hellcat hash-slinger Piper (Amber Heard) comes along for the ride, while a mysterious, unflappable fed called “the Accountant” (William Fichtner) brings up the rear. Cage’s avenger is named Milton; this reference to the author of Paradise Lost is the sole hint that Old World culture ever existed in Drive Angry’s convoy of hyperbolized-unto-parody Americana: bad drawls, obese gawkers, roadhouse demonology, coochie-cutter shorts, and engines revving under guitar stomp. As one cannot discuss Battleship Potemkin without mentioning the Odessa Steps, so, too, with Drive Angry and the gonzo porn-ish scene in which a pack of thugs pull a coitus-interruptus ambush on Milton, who remains docked inside his partner while coolly eliminating his attackers. One’s attention has little occasion to flag, though the closing-credits comedown feels like a “Peeing Calvin” decal has watered your brain.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 23, 2011