Review: Drive Angry

Last year, with magnificent turns in the Bad Lieutenant and Kick-Ass, Nicolas Cage enjoyed a fleeting Nick Clegg-length burst of credibility when he briefly recaptured the spirit that once made him such a mesmeric performer. That's long gone though.

Now he's back playing gawping, donkey-faced figures of heartfelt vengeance.

Whenever Cage appears on screen – in whichever ill-fitting wig he's recently taken a shine to – it always raises a smile in an audience. It's a reaction that is part-indulgent and part-derisive. As an action hero, he seems like a fraud, a charlatan; but somehow an innocent charlatan as bemused by it all as the rest of us. Quite how Cage ambled into this ludicrously inappropriate career is largely a mystery. Perhaps in an attempt to make amends for appearing in a substandard Ghost Rider adaptation, Drive Angry takes the same avenger-from-beyond-the-grave theme and sets it in a redneck Dukes Of Hazzard milieu of cars and bars while trying to replicate the Crank movies' tone of callous larky excess.

What's it like? Violent predominantly. You couldn't call the relentless violence and nudity gratuitous, though, they are the film's sole purpose. The aim of such films is to egg each other on to ever greater exploitative extremes, all delivered with a cold-hearted smirk.

To this end, it makes claim to a new benchmark with a scene in which a full-dressed Cage manages to despatch approximately 10 heavily armed assailants while making love to a naked waitress he'd just picked up in a bar.

In a strong cast, the stand-out is a superbly dry performance from William Fichtner as a grim reaper figure called The Accountant. He gets all the best lines.

Ultimately, though, the violence, dismemberments and inhumanity become wearying.

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Drive Angry 3D (18)

Director:Patrick Lussier

With: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke and David Morse

Length: 104 mins