Drive Angry 3D, Ghost Rider, and Thoughts On Nic Cage’s Journeys From Hell

In 2007’s Ghost Rider, Nic Cage is kept on Earth by the Devil to do his bidding. In 2011’s Drive Angy 3D, Nic Cage returns to Earth and escapes from the Devil to do his own bidding. Both involve driving stunts, hot women, and otherworldly demons threatening to bring Hell to Earth against the Devil’s wishes. There can be guilty pleasure in these dark fantasy thrillers, especially with an unrestrained operatic actor like Cage. The problem is, and many of you will scratch your heads when I write this… Cage is too sane and understated through too much of these films. Ghost Rider is mostly dull and glossy, and Drive Angry 3D, while very violent and over-the-top, only manages consistent fun for its last 30-45 minutes.

Ghost Rider, a Marvel comics adaptation from four years ago, feels older than that. It takes place in a world in which daredevils who jump buses in motorcycles are considered major celebrities. Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the devil to cure his father’s cancer, only to have the devil take his father in a crash instead. As a result, the devil wants to keep Blaze alive on earth to do his bidding in the future– so Blaze can’t die, making him the safest daredevil ever. Then, when Blackheart (Wes Bentley) and a crew of demons with the powers of Captain Planet’s elemental cohorts attempt to bring hell to Earth, the devil gives Blaze the power of the Ghost Rider, which means he now is a skeleton on fire in a leather jacket who goes around judging guilty souls and staring at them until they go catatonic with guilt… or something.

Look, don’t get me wrong. It’s all incredibly stupid. I understand in comic book form, the image of a flaming skeleton is awesome, but in practice, I struggled to take it even remotely seriously. It’s supposed to be intimidating and dark, but the image of the skull and the flame were both such clean-looking CGI– it’s glossy when it should be gritty. I’m not certain that a Ghost Rider film can work based on how badly the hero himself misses in the first. Sam Elliott appears and is always welcome in any film, and Eva Mendes is gorgeous (more astonishing, the girl who plays young Eva Mendes looks more like the star her character grows up to be than any child actor I’ve ever seen on film). Ultimately, Cage looks too old for the part: they give him an awful wig to make him seem younger, but it has zero chance of fooling anyone. He does get to ham it up and have fun when transforming into the Ghost Rider, but since the Ghost Rider is a special effect, no hamminess makes its way into the actual hero’s performance. Shame. I’m not convinced a serious Ghost Rider film can work, but one that went farther over-the-top might have been fun.

It seemed Drive Angry 3D was a lock to achieve that over-the-top vibe– I jokingly referred to it as the Movie Event of 2011. The premise has Cage escape from Hell in order to rescue his granddaughter, who was kidnapped by a Satantic cult leader (Billy Burke), all while being pursued by the police and Satan’s right hand man, The Accountant (William Fichtner). A film clip leaked a month or so before the movie’s release, in which Nic Cage gets into a gunfight while having sex with a naked woman, smoking a cigar, and drinking from a bottle of Jack Daniels. This seemed to be a tailor-made “man film,” in which sex and violence are the way of the world. Plus, between the title and the premise, it seemed to be a lock to have Nic Cage in a bad blonde wig hamming it up, screaming and taking no prisoners, which in this type of movie works perfectly.

However, Cage does very little hammy acting at all here. He stays mostly dour and understated, which I take issue with. Yes, it makes sense that a character whose daughter was killed and whose granddaughter is next would be tormented, silently suffering on the inside. Yet if you wanted that kind of character, why hire Nicolas Cage? Why not get Jason Statham or some other actor who exists solely to appear brooding? Furthermore, who cares about what makes sense in terms of your acting choices? The movie is called Drive Angry 3D– it should play host to non-stop mayhem and fun. No one in The Expendables or Machete last year said, “This scene needs to be more understated.” In terms of genre identification, Cage misses the boat.

Not everyone takes themselves too seriously in Drive Angry 3D however, as William Fichtner steals the show. From the moment he steps on screen in his sharp suit, everything he does is hysterical. He drops petits bons mots about Satan’s behavior, talks boldly to men, seduces women with a single look, and causes extraordinary violence with very little effort. His character reeks of power and the massive ego boost that comes with that power. In short, he’s the perfect character for this type of film. When they approach the big finale, both Cage and Billy Burke let loose the ham and start having fun, and when Cage pours himself a serving of wine into the skull of one of his defeated enemies, I smiled a helpless grin. This was the movie I wanted. Unfortunately, for most of the movie, he was driving sullen more than angry, leaving me still hopeful for the quintessential Nic Cage Escapes From Hell film that might be yet to come.

Ghost Rider:

Drive Angry 3D:

~ by russellhainline on March 23, 2011.

2 Responses to “Drive Angry 3D, Ghost Rider, and Thoughts On Nic Cage’s Journeys From Hell”

  1. I had NO IDEA that was the actual plot to Drive Angry. The first time you mentioned it, I thought you were joking. I wrote it down in my diary: “Russell had a very funny joke today!” The previews don’t hint at ANY of that! I felt disinterested in seeing the film cuz the final sequence of the trailer shows Fichtner with a slow-mo bullet coming at his face, followed by what looks like him being blasted out of the car. It looked like they gave away the Big Bad Guy death in the preview!!! And if that was it, i was gonna be underwhelmed.

    But Wow. this movie sounds ridiculous. I don’t think it’s in theaters here anymore though.

  2. Really very useful ideas are given here.thank you thus much.
    Keep in the excellent operates .

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