There is a thin line between genius and insanity. Sometimes the line is so thin that it is barely visible. Sometimes genius and insanity are so much a part of one another that the distinction between the two almost ceases to be knowable. In your case, there are times when I as an audience member had trouble understanding the distinction. I had trouble believing one existed.
Some decisions in narrative and action in a film are based upon poor judgment. Some are based on misplaced enthusiasm and faith in material. It is usually pretty easy to know exactly what the thought process behind certain ideas were, though. You, somehow, circumvent this, and leave me feeling confused, astounded, and yet thoroughly entertained. I have no idea what the creative process behind you was, but I can say for certain there has never before been one like it, nor will there ever be again.
The weirdness that permeates you begins with your setup. Nicholas Cage plays John Milton, who is driving around the south to save his granddaughter from being sacrificed by a satanic cult. Along the way he is hounded by cult members, the police, and picks up a feisty waitress to help him on his quest.
Oh, also Satan’s accountant. Because he broke out of hell to do all this.
What? Seriously, Drive Angry? Where did this idea come from? Why on earth is it treated with both a sense of obviousness and a level of mystery that makes absolutely no sense? It’s almost as though you started out as a normal revenge film and then suddenly got drunk and said, “well, why not” and tried to create a swirling mess of insanity that no one could ever top. Add to this strange plot point the fact that your cult leader antagonist walks around with Milton’s daughter’s femur as a walking stick and I’m inclined to think you succeeded.
Yea, you’re a strange kind of pornography, alright. And of course I mean this all – the confusion, the impenetrability, the incredulity – in the best possible way. You are a film shameless in nudity, outrageous in violence, and never ever self serious enough to not wink at your own madness. The character of the accountant, your most brilliant creation, also seems to be smiling at the absurdity of every given situation, even though some of the most insane instances in you feature him.
It is actually really difficult for me to write this letter to you, because any time I try to think of something to talk about my mind gets sidetracked trying to conceive of a world in which that thing makes sense. There is so much weirdness to you that I feel as though the only fair thing to tell my friends would be “just… just see it, ok?” You are a movie that almost defies discussion based on the sheer depth and density of your madness.
In a world of cookie-cutter sequels, remakes and adaptations, I think a fast-driving, hard-drinking, ass-kicking head case like yourself might be exactly what we need every now and then to let us know that somewhere out there someone isn’t afraid to do something no normal human being would ever even conceive of.
My hat’s off to you, Drive Angry.
Still confused, still enamoured,
Brian J. Roan