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Movie Review

John Milton—the hard-boiled felon, not the British poet—is on a mission that's literally from hell. He's been dead and roasting there for some time, but he says the worst part of it isn't burning—it's watching the constant video feed that documents what happens to your living loved ones on earth.

Now Milton has seen enough, and he's somehow managed to escape hell to "right" some wrongs.

His daughter has been murdered by satanic cult leader Jonah King, who has decapitated her and kidnapped her newborn baby girl to use as a ritualistic sacrifice. Milton has just a couple of days before the next full moon to find and rescue the child.

To pull it off he'll need two things: a hot car and a hot partner in vengeance. (Well, he doesn't need the latter, but it sure helps in Hollywood.) He finds both when he discovers Piper, a waitress with a dead-end existence who's been waiting all her life for something "meaningful." Having nothing to lose and seeing the importance of rescuing the baby, she vows to follow Milton till his fiery end.

But speaking of hot, Satan's slick-suited right-hand man, The Accountant, is hot on their trail, aiming—with his shotgun, of course—to bring Milton back. With a flip of a coin, fate determines who lives and who dies on his warpath.

After sitting through an exponentially growing body count, enough explosions to warm a developing country for months and sufficient crashed cars to create a junkyard stretching from Denver to D.C., I remembered something: Director Patrick Lussier's last movie was My Bloody Valentine. This isn't a sequel, I mused. This is the same movie, veneered with hellfire and brimstone.

Positive Elements

Piper willingly risks her life to save Milton's granddaughter. For his part, Milton doesn't have a life to lose, but his determination to rescue the little girl could be said to be admirable. A lifelong (deathlong, too?) friend helps Milton and Piper on their crusade, offering shelter and future aid to Piper and the child. Milton protects Piper as he's able to and asks The Accountant not to hurt her. He also loved his late daughter dearly.

Spiritual Content

The actual hell is inescapable and excruciating beyond what mortals can even imagine. The absence of God's presence is nothing to lampoon, so it's both offensive and disturbing to see Lussier et al treat a fiery eternity sans hope so casually. An example: When The Accountant pulls up in a highly polished vintage car to drive Milton back to the netherworld, our "hero" looks at the sweet ride and misguidedly claims that there is compassion in hell.

Before that happens, though, Jonah and his demented devotees are preparing for their orgy-like festival on the night of the full moon. They're convinced that when the baby is sacrificed, hell will come to exist on earth and "redeem" them. Jonah claims that he is the "messiah of the next age" and no earthly power can stop him. He also believes the baby is blessed to serve a "noble" purpose.

Piper, meanwhile, has a healthier respect for the dangers of the occult. She says that while aliens, UFOs, big foot and the like are all ridiculous, spiritual powers are nothing to laugh at. And once a person has opened that door, she says, there's no shutting it.

The reckoning of spiritual accounts is mentioned, based on people's deeds in life. But a gun Milton carries is called the "god killer," and it's said that a shot from it will annihilate a soul—no heaven, no hell, simply oblivion.

The Accountant disrespects Jesus several times with irreverent, sacrilegious quips. The names of Satan are listed. The Egyptian god Anubis is mentioned. A couple of Bible verses are briefly and cryptically referenced, and a hymn is sung.

Sexual Content

Piper's no-good fiancé is shown having sex with another woman. Nothing about her body (and several other women's bodies, for that matter) is left to the imagination. We see the two in a sexual position, moving and moaning. Later, Milton hooks up with a cocktail waitress, and as in My Bloody Valentine, the nude woman is abused onscreen for an entire scene—not for mere seconds.

She and Milton (who is fully clothed apart from a lowered fly that her body covers) are having boisterous sex when a shootout erupts. While still coupled with her, he moves around a motel room, murdering baddies. When the shots finally falter, she's left terrorized and cruelly battered. And for the record, the audience at the screening I attended laughed at her trauma. Milton callously orders her to calm down.

Nude women dance at an orgy-like satanic ritual. A passerby takes a cell phone picture of a naked female who has been beaten up and is lying on a sidewalk.

Piper's boss touches her suggestively. A breakfast item is vulgarly named, as is a bar that has a sexually graphic neon sign. A waitress comes on to Milton, using innuendo. Sex toys are mentioned; masturbation is alluded to.

Violent Content

Drive Angry isn't a slasher film per se, but it's certainly a first cousin to the genre. And its explicit, over-the-top violence has enough screen time and presence to be considered a primary character itself—especially since the movie was shot in 3-D.

Several men's eyes are shot, stabbed or gouged out—up close and bloodily—by bullets, crowbars or garden tools. A man's shoulder is impaled to a wall. Later his head is split open by a hurtling rod. Another man's hand is blown off, and the "miracle" of 3-D sends the pieces into your lap. A woman's throat is brutally slashed (offscreen), and we see copious blood spatter across a wall, as well as onto the murderer's face. He savors the spillage, licking his mouth and fingers. Milton's eye is injured, and its "healing" process is just as gory as the wound.

Machetes, sledgehammers, garden tools, etc., are repeatedly thrust into people's heads, chests and other body parts. A man's flesh melts off as his jaw (among other things) breaks off. Multiple people are graphically shot in what feels like continual gunfire. A woman is decimated by a car that hits her at high speed—and the vehicle's bloodied grill is shown as a joke.

Men brutally beat up women and other men. Women do the same—sometimes while naked. Another constant are reckless driving and car wrecks that result in apocalyptic explosions. People fall out of moving vehicles and crash through walls.

Violent satanic rituals are mentioned. It's said that Jonah broke a woman's leg in three places with a tire iron. A woman threatens to bite a man's penis in half. Milton and a vulnerable woman he's holding are tasered. Slo-mo bullets graze The Accountant's face.

I could go on. But there's really no need.

Crude or Profane Language

More than 50 f-words. The s-word tallies in around 15. God's name is abused about 10 times, coupled with "d‑‑n" five times. Jesus' name is misused four or five times, too. Milder language includes "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "a‑‑." Male genitalia is obscenely referred to repeatedly. An obscene gesture is made.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Two guys smoke marijuana. Alcohol is served at a bar, and Milton shoots baddies while drinking Jack Daniel's from the bottle. Later he drinks beer from a bloody skull. Piper says she needs a stiff drink.

Other Negative Elements

Women are objectified in the extreme. Cops are portrayed as ineffectual fools, and respecting them is considered laughable. At one point, Milton coerces Piper into helping him by reminding her that she's killed multiple cops and has nowhere else to go.

Conclusion

"Dehumanizing. Desensitizing. … A steady stream of mindless, mesmerizing mayhem that gradually loosens people's grip on life's quite literally holy value. Those aren't things that should trigger a rating that would keep a film like this out of mall multiplexes?"

That's what I wrote in my 2009 review of Drive Angry's "companion piece," My Bloody Valentine. And it makes me quite sad that it so clearly applies again. Maybe this film's subtle shout-out to 17th-century poet John Milton and his epic poem "Paradise Lost" is fitting after all. Because paradise is nowhere to be seen here.

According to Mr. Moviephone (film critic Russ Leatherman), "This is one of those movies that isn't even really supposed to be good. It's a throw back, pedal to the metal, ridiculous exploitation flick trying to be nothing more than a gratuitous orgy of blood, sex, cars and carnage."

But he says that as if it's a good thing. So I'm repeating it to set the record straight.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Nicolas Cage as John Milton; Amber Heard as Piper; William Fichtner as The Accountant; Billy Burke as Jonah King; David Morse as Webster; Todd Farmer as Frank

Director

Patrick Lussier ( My Bloody Valentine)

Distributor

Summit Entertainment

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

February 25, 2011

On Video

May 31, 2011

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Meredith Whitmore

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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