Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sucker Punch (2011)

I've only seen two of Zack Snyder's past directorial efforts, but I can say that I did enjoy them very much. And I'm surely not the only one, as Warner Bros. recently pegged him to helm their upcoming relaunch of the Superman film franchise. But all the affection I may have for his remake of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead and his adaptation of Watchmen, I have about as much sheer hatred for his newest movie, Sucker Punch. I'm utterly flabbergasted as just how awful Sucker Punch is. It's a movie where not only does style drastically outweigh substance, but the style isn't that great to begin with. But let's get this review over with so I can hurry up and pretend I've never seen the movie.

Sucker Punch follows a young woman nicknamed "Baby Doll" (Emily Browning), whose abusive stepfather killed her mother in an attempt to claim her fortune. But he's incensed to discover that he's been left out of the will. In a rage, he attacks Baby Doll and her sister, a scuffle that ends with Baby Doll accidentally shooting and killing her sister. The stepfather has Baby Doll institutionalized to make sure she never speaks out about what he's done, going as far as to bribe an orderly into forging documents to have her lobotomized.

In the four days it will take for the surgeon to arrive and perform the lobotomy, Baby Doll retreats into a fantasy world to escape her hellish reality. In this fantasy world, Baby Doll is an orphaned dancer who's been sold to a mob-controlled burlesque club that makes most of its money through drugs and prostitution. Baby Doll is quickly befriended by some of the club's other dancers, in particular Rocket (Jena Malone) and her older sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung), but she makes it no secret that she'd rather be anywhere else on the face of the planet.

When she herself has to dance, Baby Doll can't bring herself to even move. But when her dance instructor (Carla Gugino) tells her that it's a matter of life or death, she doesn't have much of a choice. So as she dances, she imagines herself and her newfound friends in battle, fighting giant gun-toting samurais, the German army's steam-powered reanimated corpses during World War I, and things even crazier than that. Using these fantasies to guide her, she becomes the best dancer in the club.

In her over-the-top fantasies, Baby Doll meets a wise old man (Scott Glenn), who tells her that freedom will be hers if she can collect a series of items: a map, a lighter, a knife, a key, and a final item that will make itself known when the time is right. And if there's an opportunaty for her to escape, she's damn well going to try. Her plan: distract all the men in the club with her dance skills while Rocket, Sweet Pea, Blondie, and Amber gather the items for her. They'll have to be quick about it, as the club's sleazy owner (Oscar Isaac) has arranged for Baby Doll's virginity to be sold to someone calling himself "the high roller" in four days.

Sucker Punch is a weird entry into the realm of bad movies. It's painfully obvious that it had the potential to be a great, truly unique experience. You can tell from the first frame of the movie that it could have been an awesome adventure. But the movie is bogged down by an uneven pace, poor storytelling caused by a weak narrative, forgettable acting, and a feeling of overall stupidity that plagues the whole movie. It had so much potential for excellence, yet the only thing Sucker Punch accomplishes is pushing one's patience to the breaking point. If you can make it all the way through to the end of the closing credits without growing angry or frustrated at Sucker Punch's idiocy, then you are a far stronger person than I.

Zack Snyder broke into the industry with his Dawn of the Dead remake, and the three movies he directed after that — 300, Watchmen, and the animated Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole — were adaptations of comic books and children's literature. Sucker Punch marks his first attempt at making an original movie, and from a directorial standpoint, the results were mixed.

Unfortunately, he doesn't bring much to the table outside of some slick visuals. And even then, Snyder goes overboard with them. Nothing about the movie ever feels real, never once convincing the viewer that they're looking at anything more than computer-generated special effects. You can't take any of this nonsense seriously if it doesn't try to make itself believable. In something like Sin City, you know you're seeing a ton of CGI, but the substance behind the style was strong enough to make it effective. But Snyder's efforts to make some kind of groundbreaking, thought-provoking piece of cinema are for naught, because not one second of it works. He gets incredibly close with the prologue, which I'll admit I thought was very captivating. It's actually a very beautifully-done sequence that belies just how bad the rest of the movie is. But the rest of the movie is so bad that it makes me resent the things I actually liked.

Snyder doesn't help things by crafting the movie in such a way that it very quickly wears out its welcome. Scenes that have little to no point go on for way too long, and some scenes make their point and still keep going anyway. The movie itself doesn't seem to know when to stop, as we get a pretentious monologue after the movie has already faded to black. There's no need for this movie to be two hours long, as there's a ton of stuff here and there that could have been trimmed or shortened. What frightens me is that I've heard there were quite a few scenes and some whole subplots cut from the movie, which may be restored into a "director's cut" for the DVD and Blu-ray release in a few months. I dread the idea of Sucker Punch being any longer, but here's hoping that reintroducing these scenes will help the movie flow better, because the version playing theatrically right now is a complete mess.

A lot of the reason it's that way is not only because of Snyder's direction, but the lackluster script as well. Written by Snyder and Steve Shibuya, the script is, quite frankly, lacking in a lot of departments. The story is not only worthless but told badly to boot, the dialogue is banal, and the characters are forgettable. That whole "dream within a dream" aspect made the movie feel uneven, as if it kept moving in all kinds of different directions without knowing where it wanted to go. I felt like I was watching Inception and Girl Interrupted at the same time after having taken twice my body weight in LSD. Precious little of it makes any sense even after you factor in the "dream within a dream" thing. Add in that there's only one, maybe two likable characters in the entire movie, and you end up with a script that translates into a movie that's more irritating than provocative.

Last but not least is the cast, who are about as far from memorable as you can get. Despite being the star, Emily Browning is flat and uninspiring. She's just kinda there, which is exactly the opposite of what I felt they were going for with the character. I thought the rest of the cast was too forgettable to even mention, with a few exceptions. One is Abbie Cornish, whose performance I just plain didn't like. Not only is her character one of the hardest to like, but Cornish's performance is one of the worst. But at least she made an impression, which is more than I can say for the rest of the cast. I will say, though, that I enjoyed what Jena Malone and Oscar Isaac brought to the table. Their performances are buried beneath a mountain of mediocrity, but they at least manage to contribute a little something good.

When I walked out of the theater after seeing Sucker Punch yesterday, I was actually angered by how bad it was. But after spending a day reflecting on it, I'm actually more disappointed than anything else. I wanted Sucker Punch to be a kick-ass ride, but it totally let me down. It fails as an action movie, it fails as a psychological drama, and it fails as a piece of female empowerment. And thus, Sucker Punch gets one and a half stars on the usual scale. If anything, the movie's title is fitting. I went in expecting a good movie and totally got sucker punched.

Final Rating:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Aliens (1986)

While some great movies are followed by sequels that are less than stellar, some sequels actually rival the quality of their predecessors. While The Godfather Part II remains the torchbearer for awesome sequels, it's not the only one that is as good as the one that spawned it. There's more than a few, and among them, one of my favorites is Aliens. The sequel to the classic piece of science fiction that was Ridley Scott's AlienAliens continued the saga Scott started while shifting from a more horror-oriented tone to high octane action. And it is a gloriously awesome movie to boot.

Fifty-seven hears have passed since an alien creature murdered the crew of the Nostromo. The ship has been drifting through space ever since, having been declared lost. But after nearly six decades, the Nostromo is found by a salvage team who awakens its sole survivor, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), from suspended animation.

Her story is met with skepticism by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, as no corroborative evidence survived. Besides, LV-426 — the planet where the Nostromo first encountered the alien — is now a terraforming colony. If the aliens were there as she claims, something would have happened by now.

But something does happen. Contact with the colony is lost, and Weyland-Yutani representative Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) invites Ripley to join him and a crew of Marines as they investigate. Though she is initially resistant, she changes her mind and agrees to accompany them as a way to face her fears and end the nightmares she's been suffering.

They arrive on LV-426 to discover that the colony has been massacred by the aliens, the only colonist left alive being a traumatized young girl nicknamed Newt (Carrie Henn). The aliens attack the Marines not long after their arrival and their shuttle is destroyed in the chaos, leaving Ripley, Newt, and the Marines stranded on the planet surrounded by vicious monsters.

Anyone who says Aliens is anything but awesome is a liar. The only thing there is to say about the movie is that it is utterly fantastic from beginning to end. Aliens is, without a doubt, one of the best sequels of all time, and a benchmark in both action and science fiction. All the accolades and reverence it has gotten over the years are very well deserved. But why? What about Aliens makes it so worthwhile? Allow me to explain.

Helming this adventure is James Cameron, fresh off his success on the original Terminator (and his Razzie-winning script for Rambo: First Blood Part II). Cameron's style often puts a lot of focus on visuals, and as far as Aliens goes, he doesn't disappoint. The movie is amazingly put-together, its cinematography and set design making you feel like you really are on another world.

And even though Aliens is more action than horror, Cameron still maintains the suspense and scares that Ridley Scott masterfully put to use in the first movie. The scene where Ripley and Newt find themselves trapped in a room with some angry "facehuggers" is particularly tense, as is the ensuing scene where a swarm of aliens show up on the Marines' radar yet can't be seen. Cameron approaches these scenes — and the whole movie in general —with a sense that he wanted to stay faithful to what Scott did in the first movie, yet put his own spin on it. And it works gloriously.

Two versions of Aliens actually exist: the 137-minute theatrical release and the 154-minute extended version that's been released on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray over the years. It doesn't matter which one you watch, because both are fantastic. It really shows how talented Cameron is, when he can add or delete seventeen minutes from his movie and it still makes perfect narrative sense and flows smoothly either way. I've seen both versions of the movie, and while I prefer the extended version, both of them are tightly edited and have a steady pace that keeps you involved the whole way through.

But if anything can be said for Cameron's directorial efforts over the years, it's that he can take the most mediocre of scripts and at least make them look good. (Yeah, I mean you, Avatar.) But while Aliens didn't boast an award-winning script, it's still quite good. Credited to Cameron from a story by he, David Giler, and Walter Hill, the screenplay doesn't lag or get bogged down by pointless scenes. It doesn't have a trite story trying to push some kind of stupid hippie message. It's basically "Marines land on a planet full of acid-blooded monsters and it promptly hits the fan." Yeah, most of the characters are cannon fodder, just there to be killed off by the aliens. But Cameron makes them all distinct. It's one of those rare movies whose even the characters who have no purpose other than to die horribly are memorable.

But beyond the cannon fodder, the characters get the lion's share of the story's focus are handled well. You want to see what happens to them next because Cameron's writing — and the actors too —make you care about them. This is especially true of Ripley, who is transformed from the classic horror "final girl" she was in Alien into a badass female version of John Rambo. She doesn't become the punning, stereotypical action hero that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized during the '80s, as Ripley retains a certain level of vulnerability. She's fueled not by the testosterone of action stars, but by fear and rage and rage and a compassion for the characters she's trying to keep out of harm's way. Ripley is a fantastic character, one of the best science fiction has put out there. And I'd be willing to bet that Aliens is the movie that best puts her to use.

It helps that Ripley is excellently played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is absolutely perfect in the role, to the point that it earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. And although she ended up losing to Marlee Matlin, the fact that she was even nominated at all is evidence of how powerful her performance is. Weaver's work here is nothing short of fantastic, giving Ripley an aura of both strength and fragility. She builds Ripley into a woman that you don't want to piss off, yet you want to give her a hug because she's been through so much. The alien massacres in both movies would be enough, but there's also the deleted scene (which was reinstated for the extended version) where Ripley finds out that the six decades that passed between the two movies saw her daughter grow old and die thinking her mother had been lost forever. That's a lot to handle, isn't it?

But Weaver is utterly convincing. She makes you actually believe she really did go through all that trauma and emerged on the other side as a little bit more hardened. She basically carries the entire movie by herself, and Aliens is more awesome because of it. The movie is all Weaver's, no doubt about it.

That doesn't mean the supporting cast isn't worth talking about, though. There's some pretty good acting among them. I particularly liked Lance Henriksen as the android Bishop. Henriksen plays Bishop as being calm to an almost uncomfortable degree, which makes sense. An android wouldn't freak out or overreact to things like a human would, would they? But either way, I thought Henriksen did a fantastic job. The same can be said for Paul Reiser, who is deliciously sleazy as a corrupt corporate executive who's less than forthcoming with his true intentions in regards to the aliens. Though I'm familiar with Reiser, I haven't seen much of his work outside of Aliens. I can say, though, that I liked what he did here. He plays Burke as the biggest creep in the galaxy, and is super-effective in doing so. After a while, you're just waiting for the catharsis that would come with either Ripley or the aliens getting their hands on him.

There's also some good work that comes from Bill Paxton (who, as usual, overacts like it's an Olympic event), Michael Biehn, and Jeanette Goldstein (whose role probably would have gone to Michelle Rodriguez had Aliens been made twenty years later). But the one actor who I have hesitations about is Carrie Henn as Newt. This is the only acting work Henn's ever done, quite literally having done nothing before or since, and it shows. She seems a little stiff at times, almost as if she's unsure of herself. I will admit that Henn's not bad for the most part, but her lack of experience is evident. But it's actually kinda sad that she's never acted again, because I'd have liked to have seen where her career would have gone. But alas, unless something changes, Carrie Henn is simply a one-hit wonder.

I freakin' love Aliens. It's an absolutely fantastic movie that must be seen to understand how truly great it is. The movie is proof positive that not only can sequels be great movies in their own right, but with the right combination of passion and imagination, you can blend multiple genres into something awesome. If you have not seen Aliens, please hunt down a copy of it and give it a watch. On the usual Five-Star Sutton Scale, the flick gets the full five stars and one of my proudest recommendations, You absolutely have to see it.

Final Rating: *****

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Predators (2010)

It seems like Hollywood has taken to rebooting a franchise rather than try adding a new sequel into the mix. More than a few superhero movie franchises have been relaunched, and both James Bond and Star Trek had decades of continuity wiped clean with recent movie releases. But oddly enough, when Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios was entrusted to breathe new life into the Predator franchise after two clumsily-made Alien vs. Predator movies, Rodriguez bucked the trend and produced a sequel. Titled simply Predators, this sequel is a damn fine flick that's a lot more fun than you might think.

The movie immediately introduces us to Royce (Adrien Brody), a mercenary who awakens to find that he has been dropped into the middle of a jungle. He is quickly joined by seven others from around the world, each of them heavily armed and having no idea how they arrived. They are quick to discover that they are on another planet, one that serves as a game preserve operated by the Predators. And I'm sure you can guess who the prey is.

The Predator franchise has had a pretty rough go of it, at least as far as movies go. Predator 2 sucked, and that was it for about fourteen years. Then there were the two Alien vs. Predator movies, and they sucked too. And that brings us to Predators. Whether it's technically Predator 3 or Predator 5 is probably a matter of debate, but there's no arguing that the movie is a fresh change of pace from the other sequels and spinoffs. It's a marked improvement over them, as close as anyone could have gotten to replicating the first Predator movie without simply Xeroxing some film reels. Yeah, Predators is that kind of sequel.

In the director's chair is Hungarian filmmaker Nimród Antal, who had only made two English-language movies prior to this one. Considering that I loved his work on Vacancy, I was really looking forward to seeing how he'd handle a Predator movie. And after watching it a few times, I can say I thought he handled it pretty well. Antal's direction is sound enough that one could think that John McTiernan picked up right where he left off with the first movie in 1987.

Antal actually spends quite a bit of time building some serious tension, not letting any Predators appear until nearly forty minutes into the movie. That's not to say there isn't any action during that time; there's a really cool scene where the humans are flushed out by what I guess would be a Predator's answer to hunting dogs. But Antal's decision to build tension for so long makes the action scenes feel like a greater payoff.

He also does a fantastic job at establishing atmosphere, utilizing Gyula Padros's cinematography and John Debney's music to get us in the proper mood. Padros's camerawork is wonderful, making you feel like you're actually in this alien jungle with the characters. And as for Debney's music, it's fantastic. Debney replicated Alan Silvestri's music from the original Predator for quite a bit of his score, and it works. It fits the movie perfectly. I liked Predator's music a lot, so yeah, I can say I enjoyed Debney's work on Predators.

Moving along, let's touch on the script for a second. Credited to Michael Fitch and Alex Litvak, the script is actually rather unimportant. You aren't really go into a movie about intergalactic big game hunters and expect Hemmingway, are you? Of course you aren't. There's no need for a story, and the characters are just there to provide a body count for the Predators. Some of them get a little development, but most of the characters could have been listed in the credits as variations of "Guy With Gun #5" for all they're worth. But really, the movie didn't need a strong script, just a serviceable one. And that's exactly what it has.

This brings me to the cast, who I thought got the job done. Rodriguez and Antal made the bold decision to cast against type and hire Adrien Brody for the lead role, a choice that I felt paid off. He'd be one of the last guy's you'd expect to see as an action hero, after his work in stuff like The Pianist, but he's not bad at all. Brody comes to the role with a certain gruffness, which I felt was effective in establishing who his character is. He makes it feel plausible. I also really liked Topher Grace, who plays a doctor who has been dropped on the Predator planet for seemingly no reason at all. Up until the big twist that reveals just why he's there, Grace plays his character as how I imagine I'd act if stuck in this situation. He's cowardly, easily frightened, and generally unhappy to be there. And I can say that I totally bought it.

Among the other memorable performances are Walton Goggins, who plays a smart-ass death row inmate, and Laurence Fishburne, who has a glorified cameo as a soldier who's spent several years on the Predator's planet. Goggins is really entertaining in his role, while Fishburne gets to play his character as having completely lost his mind. I'm not sure exactly why Fishburne is in the movie, though, as it feels like the character was written for somebody else. He probably just had a few days away from shooting episodes of CSI and asked if he could be in the movie. I'm not complaining, since he's a lot of fun, but it's weird seeing him here.

Long story short, I thought Predators was a great way to try reviving a sagging franchise. I can't say that it's a perfect movie, but it's exciting, a ton of fun, and a movie that anyone who calls themselves a Predator fan should have already seen by now. If you haven't, it's most definitely worth seeing. So I'm giving Predators three and a half stars and a total thumbs-up. And after Predator 2 and the two Alien vs. Predator movies, I'm just happy somebody made a follow-up to the first Predator that doesn't totally suck.

Final Rating: ***½

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Predator 2 (1990)

It's a sad truth, but sometimes great movies end up with lousy sequels. The Jurassic Park sequels sucked, the Matrix sequels sucked, and Superman and Batman have had their fair share of bad sequels. Unfortunately, the same can be said for one of my favorite '80s movies, Predator. The movie that saw Arnold Schwarzenegger battle an alien big game hunter in the Guatemalan jungle is a modern classic in both the action and science fiction genres, and made a ton of money to boot. So naturally, a sequel was bound to happen. Hitting theaters three years after the original, Predator 2 is sadly a lesser movie than its predecessor. But what makes it that way?

As the movie opens, the city of Los Angeles finds itself stuck in the middle of a violent and bloody turf war between rival Columbian and Jamaican drug cartels. Throw in the fact that this turf war is taking place during the worst heat wave in recent memory, and L.A. isn't a great place to be. But things go from bad to worse when a Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) arrives in town and begins slaughtering both cops and members of the drug cartels.

Police lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover), a key member of the LAPD's efforts to stop the war, soon finds himself face to face with the Predator after it kills some of his colleagues. Lieutenant Harrigan is forced to team with stubborn federal agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who leads a task force dedicated to catching the Predator for scientific research, in order to combat the alien threat before it can butcher the entire city.

The truth is that Predator 2 is really more disappointing than anything. I absolutely love the Predator franchise, but Predator isn't quite as successful in inspiring the same level of excitement and entertainment as either the first one or the one that Robert Rodriguez produced last year. The movie is a total letdown, as sad as that is to say.

Helming the movie is Stephen Hopkins, a director whose résumé includes such flicks as the Lost in Space movie, the fifth Nightmare on Elm Street movie, and twelve episodes of 24. His work with Predator 2 is actually pretty good, keeping things moving at a steady pace with impressive cinematography, tight editing, and some really cool action sequences. The only problem I had with it is that it doesn't really feel like a Predator movie. It doesn't have the same kind of presence as the other two movies in the trilogy. Maybe it's the change in setting to an urban jungle instead of a regular jungle, I don't know. But Predator 2 feels a lot different from the other two movies, and I can't say that's a good thing.

It's weird, too, because Predator 2 was written by Jim and John Thomas, the writers of the first movie. You'd think that the guys who created the Predator in the first place would be able to write a kickass sequel. But no, Predator 2 doesn't kick ass. The script is weak, frankly. What little story there is is stupid, the dialogue is crap, and the whole thing translates into a movie that ends up being more of a chore to watch than anything else. Okay, yeah, Predator wasn't the paragon of thought-provoking screenwriting or anything, but at least it didn't make you want to go watch something else instead.

And this brings us to the cast, which is forgettable to say the least. Danny Glover plays the movie's resident hero, and he's... well, he's less than impressive. I generally like Glover's work, but he just seems like the wrong person for the role. He's playing the role like your typical "reckless cop" action hero, but it doesn't suit him. It's like Glover went from playing Roger Murtaugh to playing Martin Riggs. He's a bad fit for the movie, and both his performance and the movie suffer for it. The rest of the cast isn't that great, either. Bill Paxton is annoying beyond belief, María Conchita Alonso is just plain bad, and Gary Busey is Gary Busey. I'm just sad that Busey doesn't go completely over the top with his overacting. It would have the movie just a little bit more entertaining.

Predator 2 didn't have to turn out this way. It could have been awesome. But it's not. It's just another incident of a lame sequel following an awesome movie. I hate when that happens, but you can't really change things twenty years after the fact. It's at least a watchable lousy movie. It has that going for it, at least. But I can't give Predator 2 anything higher than two stars. Really, how sad is it that it took 20th Century Fox over two decades to make a movie with the Predator in it that was worth watching?

Final Rating: **

Friday, March 4, 2011

Drive Angry (2011)

The Academy Awards were this past Sunday, and just like it is every other year, it was four boring hours of Hollywood slapping itself on the back for creating a bunch of artsy-fartsy movies that are made solely to win Oscars in the first place. But my motto when it comes to watching movies is "screw art, let's party." I'm not rushing out to see King George VI overcome his stutter or a bunch of ballerinas trying out for Swan Lake, and I'm certainly not interested in a movie about how Facebook was created. I'm not saying I'll never see those movies, but I'd much rather go see movies that are a ton of fun instead.

And that's just what Drive Angry is. It hasn't gotten many good reviews and it hasn't been doing too hot at the box office, but the movie is all kinds of entertaining. It's a ludicrous movie, with nonsensical writing, over-the-top acting, and a feeling that it doesn't aspire to be anything more than it already is. But that's what's so awesome about it. It's basically a grindhouse movie with an A-list star and a $45,000,000 budget. But let's dig in and see what makes Drive Angry just so damn cool.

Meet John Milton (Nicolas Cage), a long-dead criminal who has quite literally broken out of Hell. His mission: to kill Jonah King (Billy Burke), a cult leader who murdered Milton's daughter and kidnapped his infant granddaughter. Jonah and his cult plan to sacrifice the baby in a satanic ritual that they believe will unleash Hell on Earth.

Milton quickly finds support in Piper (Amber Heard), a young waitress who teams up with him after he kicks the crap out of her abusive boyfriend. But hot on their tail is "The Accountant" (William Fichtner), an operative of Satan's that is entrusted with making sure all of Hell's escapees are returned. And though he doesn't have a problem with Milton trying to kill Jonah, it's just bad for business if people escape from Hell.

Drive Angry is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most badass movies I have ever seen theatrically. I don't care what the reviews or the box office grosses say; Drive Angry is awesome. There honestly aren't enough good things I can say about it. It's a movie that puts fun and amusement at the forefront, all logic be damned. There's no story to tell here. There's no greater purpose or higher meaning to Drive Angry. It simply is what it is, and I love it for that.

The movie was directed by Patrick Lussier, his first film following his underrated remake of My Bloody Valentine. This marks his second 3D movie, and even if Drive Angry were in 2D, it'd still be cool. The movie looks fantastic, with slick cinematography and awesome effects. Lussier never lets the movie slow down either, making sure there's always a car chase or a gunfight or a brawl happening before the audience can lose interest. Two moments in particular stand out: the scene where The Accountant plows through a police roadblock in a hydrogen truck and the bit where Milton opens fire on a dozen of Jonah's cult members while having sex with some floozy he picked up at a bar. These two scenes are simply unbelievable, both in their concepts and their executions. I'm actually surprised, even now, that these scenes exist and by how well Lussier pulled them off.

I also thought the 3D effects turned out really well, too. Drive Angry was shot using 3D cameras, rather than the usual "make it in 2D and do a 3D conversion in post-production" routine that most movies go through. Since it's "real" 3D and not that after-the-fact stuff, the movie immediately looks a lot better than other 3D movies. Despite some filmmakers saying that 3D could be a serious tool in cinematic storytelling, Lussier sees the truth: that it's just a gimmick that only really pays off if you treat it as such. And he goes all-out with it, pulling off as many cheesy "throw whatever's available at the audience" tricks as he can. That might sound silly to some, but considering the kind of movie this is, that sort of thing is to be expected. If you're going to see Drive Angry, you must see it in 3D. It's definitely worth the extra $2.50 premium.

Moving along, let's talk a little about the script. Written by Lussier and Todd Farmer, who previously collaborated on the My Bloody Valentine remake, the script is rife with goofy moments, ludicrous dialogue and one-liners, and a plot so threadbare that you could struggle to say there's even a plot at all. But that's the great thing about it. Lussier and Farmer know that they're writing an exploitation movie, so they go at it with everything they've got. And really, the movie is a million times more fun for it.

And this brings us to the movie's cast, whom are all awesome in their own ways. Nicolas Cage is our lead actor here, and he plays the character as the most unbelievably grizzled badass imaginable. It's like they somehow managed to fuse Charles Bronson and Rambo and stuck the end result in an exploitation movie. Say what you will about Cage's acting ability, but he's perfect for Drive Angry. I couldn't imagine anyone doing a better job in the role. Every line he says, every move he makes, it's all awesome. Not a second of his screen time is wasted; all of it is dedicated to making Cage look like the roughest, toughest antihero possible. And Cage is fantastic, to say the least.

Playing Cage's sidekick is Amber Heard, who does the whole "action heroine" thing with aplomb. She gets to kick a lot of ass in the movie, and Heard jumps into it headfirst. Though not a lot is demanded from her as far as actual acting goes, Heard still has a strong onscreen presence. She plays Piper as a strong-willed young woman who has no qualms with kicking the crap out of someone if she has to. Her lively attitude is a great balance to Cage's gruffness, which is much better when you factor in that her character is not once considered as a potential love interest to Cage's.

As the target of Milton's vengeance is Billy Burke, who only work I'd seen prior to this in the Twilight movies. And if anything, his character in Drive Angry is a million miles away from his character in Twilight. I wasn't even for sure it was the same guy until I read it on the Internet. Burke plays Jonah King as sleazy as he can get, coming off as more snake than man at times. He's effectively creepy, giving Jonah a kind of "Jim Jones meets Charles Manson" kind of vibe. You know, the kind of cult leader that could kill dozens of people and convince his followers to drink cyanide-flavored Kool-Aid at the same time. Burke makes a great villain, one that the movie needed.

But really, if all truth be told, the entire movie belongs to William Fichtner. The guy is so awesome that he steals scenes he's not even in. Fichtner's Accountant is the epitome of cool and composed throughout the movie. He never raises his voice or acts out of sorts, casually delivering insults and killing people as if it were his standard routine. (And since the character's from Hell, it probably is.) Fichtner's straight-laced performance in the midst of all this insanity makes for funnier moments than I've seen in some comedies. I know there will probably never be a Drive Angry 2, but if there is, I'm hoping the whole thing follows Fichtner, because he was pretty much the best part of the movie.

Drive Angry is 104 minutes of pure old-school exploitation. It has no shame at all, fully embracing its own trashy nature. And I couldn't love it more. It's a movie that won't be up everyone's alley, but those who do enjoy this style of flick will love it. I'm not kidding when I say that the movie really is one of the most entertaining rides I've been on in forever. The fact that the movie bombed is disappointing, because the movie is one that has to be seen to be believed. So I'm asking if you like silly action movies with gimmicky 3D, go check out Drive Angry before it gets pulled from theaters. I'm going to give it four stars on the scale, and a huge recommendation to check it out. I know I said it'll probably never happen, but I'm still hoping for a sequel. I'd see Drive Angry 2 a million times.

Final Rating: ****