Things I Learned from Movie X
By Edwin Davies
July 18, 2011
There has been a trend in recent years of studios investing considerable amounts of money on films that are throwbacks to a kind of cheap, sleazy cinema that doesn't really exist anymore outside of the direct-to-DVD market. This arguably started with the Tarantino-Rodriguez fiasco that was Grindhouse, an $80 million homage that failed to find an audience other than Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez. The thinking seems to be that by producing films that are ridiculously odd and almost willfully non-commercial will turn them into instant cult classics, and therefore successes, despite the fact that one of the essential criteria for a cult classic is that the film needs to have been something of a failure in the first place. (See: Repo Man, Blade Runner and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)
The latest entry in this quasi-sub-genre is Drive Angry, which tells the totally marketable, commercially viable and in no way insane story of a man named John Milton, (Really? I mean...really? Why not go for another long dead author who wrote about Hell and the Devil? Goethe, Dante and Marlowe are awesome names for characters in dumb movies, why not give them a shot?) played by Nicholas Cage, who escapes from Hell in order to rescue his baby grandaughter, who has been kidnapped by a group of Satanists who plan to sacrifice her in order to bring Hell to Earth. Along the way, Milton teams up with an ass-kicking waitress (Amber Heard) and the two tear their way across the South, killing people like murder's going out of style. Drive Angry may be trash, but as I'm sure a lot of British tabloid journalists could tell you, there's lots to be learned from sifting through trash, for example...
William Fichtner needs to be in everything, and he needs to be in it now
Despite a great turn in Heat, and a memorable appearance in the stunning bank robbery that opens The Dark Knight, as well as a host of other appearances in film and television, William Fichtner has never really made the transition from character actor to star. There's no single reason why, but it probably has something to do with the fact that he looks like a young version of Christopher Walken, if Walken had ever had his skin removed and then stretched out over a skeleton that is just a little *too* small for him. Also, the middle part of his surname is such a veritable car crash of consonants that even the most dogged fan would be loathe to spell it without constantly checking IMDB, so putting his name above the title would be like the Ninth Circle of Hell to poster artists.
In Drive Angry, Fichtner demonstrates just how unfeasibly awesome he is by managing to be the most crazy and unhinged character in a film that stars Nic Cage. I thought that would only ever happen if someone made a documentary about Nic Cage meeting Charles Manson, and even then it seems like it would be a draw. Rather than go big with the role, Fichtner goes entirely in the opposite direction by playing his character - The Accountant, a demonic bounty hunter sent to drag Milton back to Hell - as someone who is quietly interested in everything around him, to an almost disturbing degree. Unlike most supernatural antagonists, he doesn't really seem to know what is going on, so he spends most of the film asking people overly polite questions, marvelling at the responses people give him, and then either casually telling them when they are going to die, or throwing part of a broken baseball bat through their head. You don't think anyone can throw a baseball bat through someone's head in a casual manner? Then you don't know William Fichtner.