Released in 2011 ▪ Review posted January 30, 2014
“Poets are shameless with their experiences: they exploit them.”
What if I told you there was a movie where the following scene unfolds?
CUT TO: INT. MOTEL ROOM (Nicolas Cage, fully clothed, is having sex with a naked woman.) WOMAN Why don’t you take off your clothes, baby? NIC I never disrobe before gunfire.
Suddenly, six to ten Satan worshipers kick down the door and rush into the room. Nic shoots them all to death while continuing to have intercourse. He then leaves, the woman traumatized by what she just endured.
What would you do? Would you roll your eyes? Would you denounce the movie? Would you cry sexism? I’m curious. I might have, knowing only that fact.
I want to assure you that although this incredibly fucking awesome thing does happen in Drive Angry, it is a cog in a much greater machine. Drive Angry is, at its core, exploitation cinema.
An “exploitation film” is a movie whose budget is so small, its only chance at success is to exploit our love of sex and violence to sell tickets. Remember Wild Things? If you’re thirty or older, you probably remember hearing about some movie where apparently Neve Campbell and Denise Richards have lesbian sex, and you get to see Kevin Bacon’s bacon. You don’t remember the plot, but you remember those things. That’s the foundation of exploitation film.
Except, Wild Things was made in 1998 and its budget was around $20 million. Though it borrows the basic elements of exploitation films, its budget betrays it. It could afford A-list actors and decent filming locations. It had things going for it other than lesbian sex, but sold only the sex anyway. That isn’t really exploitation cinema, it’s just exploitive. Surely there’s a way to hark back to that era of filmmaking without being crass.
Enter Quentin Tarantino. Using his resources to create cool and somehow respectful worlds of intentional exploitation, he created homages to the fun parts of exploitation cinema. It helped that he used actors like Pam Grier and John Travolta. But what’s left? What’s the step after recreating and re-exploiting the exploited?
The logical progression is to reverse the concept. Pour all of your money into one aspect of your low-budget, crazily written, escape-from-Hell action movie. In Drive Angry, that aspect is Nicolas Cage. A complete foil for Tarantino’s faded action movie stars, Nic Cage is squeezed by the director, Patrick Lussier, like a ripe Florida orange.
What unfolds is the cinematic exploitation of Nicolas Cage. Seeing Nic say as many madcap, insane things and do as many bizarre, crazy action movie tasks as possible is the driving force of this film. A journey started in 1996 with The Rock is completed in Drive Angry. A new genre is born.
Drive Angry is Cage-ploitation cinema.
So it doesn’t matter if Nic is good or bad in this movie (it just so happens he’s great). It also doesn’t matter if this movie is good or bad (it just so happens to be awesome). What matters is that this movie aggressively exploits Nicolas Cage and Nicolas Cage doesn’t resist. Every single moment in the script where you salivate to see Nicolas Cage respond to events in the most Nicolas Cage way imaginable, he meets and exceeds your expectations. It’s a Nicolas Cage circus starring any and every version of Cage. If in Moonstruck Nic was smothered under the heft of Cher, in Drive Angry everything is in service not just to Cage but to the stereotype of Cage. It’s delightful.
This film is definitive proof that Nicolas Cage is in fact in on the joke, at least on some level. It could be that Nic is smarter than all of us. He has transcended acting and fame. He is the Buddha of Hollywood.
- How was the movie?
- The best thing you’ve ever seen
- How was Nic Cage’s acting?
- Did his performance make the movie worse?
- Not at all