A thriller of epically ridiculous proportions, “Drive Angry 3D” is pure schlock from start to finish.

Helmed by Patrick Lussier (he was behind the agreeable 2008 revamp of “My Bloody Valentine”), “Drive Angry 3D” has no doubts about what it wants to be, fulfilling its ambitions royally. Combining oodles of destructive action with a knowingly lewd comic sensibility, “Drive Angry 3D” also has the benefit of decent genre performances. Nicolas Cage is watchable in a rather contained fashion (a little more lunacy might actually have helped), but Amber Heard, Billy Burke and most notably William Fichtner are all delights.

Having managed the seemingly impossible feat of escaping from Hell (it’s never explained how), Milton (Nicolas Cage) goes on the hunt for a cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke), the man responsible for the death of Milton’s daughter and the kidnapping of his granddaughter. On his travels Milton meets Piper (Amber Heard), a sassy waitress with a penchant for short shorts and the owner of a fast set of wheels. Convincing her to join him on the hunt, Milton pursues Jonah with fierce commitment, offing the villain’s numerous henchmen as he goes. Milton needs to stop Jonah from performing a deadly ritual on his granddaughter, the evil ringleader planning to sacrifice her blood for his own nefarious gains. However making matters trickier is The Accountant (William Fichtner), the devil’s most powerful associate, sent by Lucifer to return Milton to a life of eternal torment and fiery damnation.

“Drive Angry 3D” is fully aware of its own ludicrousness, embracing its demented sensibility at every possible juncture. The action is wildly overblown, the dialogue riddled with one liners  and the performances beyond cartoonish. Lussier shoots every frame with the intention of soliciting throaty chuckles, with the odd moment of 3D infused awe tossed in for good measure. Of course the story is utter bobbins (in fact it’s downright illogical in places), but hey, that’s all part of the show.

Cage favors the strong silent approach as Milton, only occasionally cracking out the insanity we’ve come to know and adore. It’s a pretty decent turn, the actor fully aware of the film’s limitations and its chief aims. He scowls a lot, growling his lines without a hint of irony. Basically, he’s exactly what “Drive Angry 3D” needs in a leading man. Amber Heard gives a career best performance here, combining her natural sex appeal with a no nonsense attitude. It’s a memorable bit of work, showing that the actress is just as keen to be involved in sweaty action as she is to make cheeky comic contributions. Billy Burke is genuinely quite nasty as Jonah King, yet it’s William Fichtner who steals the show. The actor plays his part with a gloriously offbeat sense of humor and a triumphant swagger, walking away with the film as a consequence. He’s a bad guy, but due to the sheer coolness his performance radiates the character is thoroughly likable. It’s a remarkably fun portrayal.

Lussier’s handling of the wilder sequences is sound, mixing bursts of manic road rage with various shootouts to fill the movie’s action quota. The picture starts as it means to go on; the opening car chase cum gunfight is terrifically executed, thrusting viewers headfirst into the filmmaker’s crazy vision. Other set pieces of note include one involving a police barricade, plus the now seemingly obligatory trashy moment in which a man violently defends himself whilst having rowdy intercourse. Obviously with a title like “Drive Angry 3D” you’d expect some pretty frantic motoring sequences, Lussier serving up the automotive carnage with aplomb. There’s also blood, guts and nudity aplenty, all of which are complimented by the film’s cheesy use of 3D. The actual quality of the 3D is perfectly satisfactory, “Drive Angry 3D” simply being more interested in using it to emphasize maimed bodies than immerse audiences in its sun baked environments.

The storytelling gets very slack toward the end, resulting in a disappointingly generic final showdown. Lussier seems to lose some of his confidence as “Drive Angry 3D” reaches its close, using an obvious macguffin to put an end to the silly shenanigans. True, this section of the movie does feature a character drinking beer from a freshly mutilated skull, but on the whole “Drive Angry 3D” opts for an oddly safe conclusion. It’s adequate, but given the daring enthusiasm evidenced throughout the majority of the film, this denouement feels a tad sedate. Similarly a subplot involving a wasted David Morse (as Milton’s ex-buddy) is needless. Lussier should have just axed it and tightened up the film’s running time.

“Drive Angry 3D” is definitely worth a watch for connoisseurs of deliberately junky cinema. Those easily offended or liable to take the film too seriously had best steer clear, but everyone else is likely to have something resembling a blast. Much like last year’s “Piranha 3D” this is a feature that revels in its own crude absurdity. I rarely champion unrestrained stupidity, but in the case of “Drive Angry 3D” I’m happy to make an exception.

7/10

Daniel Kelly