Drive Angry Review

March 14, 2011

Nicolas Cage is Milton, an escapee from Hell who’s on a mission to find his child in the dirty south. Along with a waitress named Piper (Amber Heard), Milton seeks out a Satanic cult who will perform a child sacrificing ritual in three days. Three groups are trying to stop Milton: the police, the cult itself, and a mysterious man known as The Accountant who is attempting to get Milton to return to the firey depths. Sounds like a deliriously fun mess but a quick look at director Patrick Lussier’s resume sums up what got my goat in Drive Angry.

Film posters of Patrick Lussier's films

Doing mostly sequels and remakes isn’t going to put you on my “Directors To Watch” list unfortunately. All the problems I associate with his filmography come to fruition in Drive Angry: it feels derivative of films with similar themes that were more fresh the first time around. It’s a schlocky story no doubt, but I’m a firm believer that even a simple story can be made interesting if the right talent are involved to inject it with excitement. In Drive Angry, we have the schlock set-up but none of the right ingredients that make this rocket take off.

Nicolas Cage as the lead of Milton doesn’t work. Cage must be a bit embarrassed from the wave of parodies of his over-the-top antics in films like The Wicker Man as he is totally sleep walking through his role of Milton and comes off as bored. Milton isn’t very interesting to begin with. Being undead, Milton is invincible against gunfire and other such punishment. That’s exciting when the character is a villain like The Terminator or Michael Myers, but as a hero, you never feel like Milton’s in any great danger. Perhaps if his main rival played by Billy Burke didn’t resemble a youthful Neil Young, he’d have a foe worthy to come back from the dead to fight with.

On a trivial note, Cage’s haircut is hidden on the poster. I think it’s because he’s beginning to resemble Chad Kroeger from Nickelback. They used to really look like each other in Con Air in the early 2000s, but I’m guessing that things have come full circle for 2011.

Nicolas Cage Drive Angry Chad Kroeger

The action scenes are nothing to write home about. One scene involving Piper jumping between two speedy vehicles begins to build some excitement, but the chase ends as soon as that jump happens. Another scene involving a tanker truck crash is ruined by having the tanker become a blob of ugly CG as soon as it takes flight. I’m not anti-CG, but I prefer it when directors use it creatively to make the impossible happen. Good examples include the gonzo car chase in Wanted or the liquid metal T-1000 in Terminator 2. In Drive Angry, you just feel cheated seeing this blog of computer graphics leaping into the air. The last scene worth noting involves a gun fight between Milton and a host of baddies. While the shootout happens, Milton is having sex (fully clothed) with an anonymous woman who is stark naked! This might work if this film were more like Crank, but it does not fit the context of Cage’s brooding character as I have no idea why these two decide to fool around in bed. I can’t shake the feeling of theft either, as a similar sex-n’-shootin’ scene already happened a few years ago in Shoot ‘Em Up. Were you hoping to make Shoot ‘Em Up 2 at one point Lussier?

Despite a lack of storytelling skill or quality action, Drive Angry does boast some actors trying who try to resurrect a dead script. Amber Heard does tries very hard to give her character a bit of grit and William Fichtner’s role of the Accountant also manages to give the film a bit of a punch that it desperately needs. Fichtner chews on the scenery every time he appears. If these two were given a script worthy of their effort they put forth, I’d be able to give Drive Angry a recommendation. Otherwise, I’d suggest Drag Me to Hell and Grindhouse for a better slice of supernatural-tinged schlock.


Gallants DVD Review

March 5, 2011

Despite what my other reviews suggest, I do enjoy action films. Shocking, right? I’m even willing to step outside the safety boundaries of John Woo and Jackie Chan films to get my Hong Kong fix. Gallants fits this mold. It doesn’t have brand name directors and the leads are Bruce Leung and Kuan Tai Chen. Not exactly young pups, as they are mostly known for their seventies and eighties films. Having them as the leads, it’s easy to assume the film will be wallowing in nostalgia. The trailer certainly reeks of the seventies (not that I’m complaining!)

I recommend letting this music play as you browse the blog for maximum effect.

Gallants thankfully goes beyond parodies and tributes. The story involves Cheung (Wong You Nam) who works at a real estate company where he is sent to settle a property development dispute in an old teahouse. On arriving, Cheung finds that it was was previously a kung-fu dojo until Master Law (Teddy Robin Kwan) had fallen into a coma. The tea house is operated by Dragon (Chen Kuan-tai) and Tiger (Bruce Leung), two of Master Law’s original students. One night, the tea house is broken into which causes Master Law to be sent to a hospital. Master Law awakens in the hospital and does not realize how many years have gone by, and tries to rejuvenate the dojo.

Gallants is a bit of a mixed bag but is a generally satisfying experience. The action works and the comedy is never trying, but the film is hindered by it’s low budget and occasionally wandering script. What saves it is good action scenes (including a great final showdown involving former Bruce Lee impersonator Bruce Leung), occasionally funny gags and the best part: Teddy Kwan. As soon as Kwan’s character springs to life, he steals the show and even brings an emotional weight to the film out of nowhere. Want to know how much drama he brings to the table?
Listen to this music from the DVDs menu screen.

I do not recommend letting this music play as you browse the blog.

Even the DVD menu music knows it’s all about him and the feeling of getting older. Outside the film, the DVD is as classy as imports get. A nice looking package that includes a making-of feature that involves behind the scenes footage and interviews (all thankfully subtitled in English). The video is widescreen and anamorphic and features subtitles that are Engrish free. You get the lovely trailer and uhh…a music video by MC Jin. Remember when he was in the Ruff Ryders? I can assume in 20 years, Hong Kong will have a remake of Gallants that will feature an aging MC Jin waking up from a coma to resurrect Hong Kong Hip Hop. Let’s hope this blog doesn’t still exist at that point.


Unstoppable Review (2010)

February 22, 2011

From the opening credits, this specific locomotive Downloads is shown in a way to suggest it’s an film about an evil train. cheap nba jerseys How could it not be? Look at this shit:

Unstoppable Evil Train

Sadly, it’s not an evil train film. Over 100 years of cinema and there has not been a film about an evil train made. As for the actual plot, it can be explained as this:

Train can’t stop! Goin’ way wholesale nfl jerseys too fast! Two men should stop it!

Nothing wrong with that plot in my books, as it sets themselves up for potentially juicy spectacles. In between the time when the cheap nfl jerseys two engineers (Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) decide to catch up with the train, it hurdles towards numerous obstacles including a CG of raccoon, a herd of horses, and another train full of school kids. Did you laugh at least at one of those listed crashable items? I did while watching them, as they come off as near-parody with their straight-faced set-up. When things do crash, it’s thankfully CG light. I think I only starred at the screen blankly once thinking about how fake it all looked.

Unstoppable Bikini Spot
Props Clever in the film amuse X-Bike themselves outside the train story

Outside of the collisions, we are given a plethora of conversations between the engineers, a train yardmaster and her superiors. These scenes irritated me as wholesale jerseys they didn’t add enough intensity, genuine emotion or Sechs to the film. These chatty scenes are inter cut with shots of the train whizzing buy from various camera angles as if Rodriguez to say "Don’t worry! More train scenes are coming!". I can’t blame Tony Scott for this one. The script needs a bit more of a bite and these jump cuts to the train zipping along are doing their best to make up for that. As for the acting, Denzel Washington, Christopher Pine and Rosario Dawson do their best with what’s given to them but can not transform the generally average script into an enthralling film.