Hell on wheels | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hell on wheels

Nicolas Cage stars as a literal speed demon on leave from hell in a bid to find the devil-worshipping freak who killed his daughter.

This original screenplay co-written by Todd Farmer and the film’s director, Patrick Lussier, is a supernatural actioner taking story and style pointers from graphic novels. The film worships redneck icons, positioning muscle cars as the ultimate weapons, and finding such coherence between acts of violence and hedonistic sex, that one character performs both acts simultaneously while swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The film’s nihilistic spell is barely dented by its hero’s efforts to defeat Satanic worshippers, or his defense of a comely young woman from her abusive fiancee.

Nicolas Cage plays John Milton, a name the story appropriates from the 17th century English writer best known for his epic poem “Paradise Lost.” Just as Satan is sometimes the hero of Milton’s poem, the devil’s emissary sometimes comes to Milton’s aid, in “Drive Angry 3D.”

Milton has escaped hell in order to save his infant granddaughter, slated for sacrifice by an especially nasty satanic cult. Before he can rescue the babe from ringleader Jonah (Billy Burke), Milton is obliged to kill dozens of Jonah’s minions, sent to execute Milton before he can pilot a 1969 Dodge Charger to their sacrificial site.

Milton’s sidekick is the car’s plucky owner, Piper (Amber Heard), his willing accomplice following her decision that he’s a “good man.” Cage is decked out in a scraggly wig and black leather while Heard’s long blonde locks, denim cutoffs, cowgirl boots and form-fitting T-shirt, complete the ideal hillbilly pin-up girl, soon to be gracing posters hanging in dive bars. Heard’s Piper is likable for her sassy line delivery and energetic fight skills while Cage successfully dials back his typically rage-filled portrayals to one that quietly seethes.

As Satan’s dapper “Accountant,” William Fichtner runs away with his scenes, giving his character the campy twist this film so desperately craves. More gun-toting joyride than carefully plotted tale, “Drive Angry 3D” humorously flings every type of exploding vehicle and body part at the audience.

While many films seem to use 3D as a random element, here the format gets a thumbs up for generating both laughs and excitement. Eat popcorn only if the person next to you knows the Heimlich maneuver.

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