Film Friday: ‘Drive Angry’ and ‘Hall Pass’

by W. Andrew Powell

A scene from Drive Angry

A scene from Drive Angry

Debuting in theatres this week: Nicolas Cage and Amber Heard star in the gory action adventure Drive Angry; Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis take a week off from their wives in Hall Pass; plus a look at the highly-rated foreign film, Of Gods and Men.

Drive Angry
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, Christa Campbell, Charlotte Ross
Director: Patrick Lussier

My Bloody Valentine director Patrick Lussier puts Nicolas Cage front and center in the supernatural tale of a man, the aptly named Milton, who breaks out of hell to rescue his infant granddaughter from being sacrificed to a bloody cult.

Meeting the young Piper, played by Amber Heard, along the way, who happens to have a killer ’69 Charger, Milton and his new friend will drive their way through any challenge to get to their goal. Milton will just have to contend with The Accountant, played by William Fichtner, a force sent from Hell to bring the rampaging soul back to its rightful prison.

Featuring what’s been called impressive 3D, and loads of blood, gore, and flying body parts, Drive Angry is a veritable treasure trove of action goodness that may remind a lot of Cage’s fans why they have loved him for so many years, and despite his many, many terrible films.

Drive Angry is certainly not getting universal approval from the critics, but there are many writers who have come out supporting the thrill-a-minute energy of Lussier’s off-kilter film, including Peter Bradshaw of the UK’s Guardian.

“Entirely ridiculous,” wrote Bradshaw, “in appalling taste and often very entertaining.”

A lot of other critics were happy to lambast the film, however. Peter Howell of the Toronto Star wrote in his review, “A movie that could have left skid marks on our psyche – in 3-D no less – instead drives us to distraction with verbose line readings that kill momentum worse than a police flashlight shining through a parked windshield.”

Hall Pass
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins
Directors: Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly

The gross-out comedy is an art-form that has been gestating since the mid-1990s when the Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter, first announced themselves with films like Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, and of course, There’s Something About Mary.

While the gross-out levels in their early films was minor, it seems the duo have just been biding their time until they could release Hall Pass, starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis.

Wilson and Sudeikis star as best buddies Rick and Fred, two married men who have been feeling out of sorts at home, and wonder what they can do to spice up their lives. The answer, it turns out, is the “hall pass”, a chance for the boys to take a week off from their wonderful marriages to do whatever they want to do; no questions asked.

As luck would have it though, the two men may not have a firm grasp on reality, and their week-long single life quickly goes way off course.

Co-starring Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate as the lucky wives of these buffoons, Hall Pass is quite obviously not for everyone. If poop jokes and naked men aren’t your thing, you can probably skip this one without wondering what you’re missing.

Critic Richard Roeper of wrote, “Nothing new from the Farrelly brothers, but a mild recommendation for the handful of big laughs.”

While Andrew Barker of Variety quipped in his review, “Those 1990s gross-out kings, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, are finally growing up, even if that maturation is visible only in highly relative terms.”

Of Gods and Men
Starring: Jean-Marie Frin, Jacques Herlin, Philippe Laudenbach, Michael Lonsdale, Xavier Maly, Loic Pichon
Director: Xavier Beauvois

Lastly this week comes the strongly recommended foreign film Of Gods and Men, a drama about a small group of French Christian monks living in a monastery in North Africa. Set in the 1990s, the film follows the monks’ story as a fundamentalist Islamic group kills a number of foreign works.

Although the army comes to protect the monks, the men refuse the protection and debate whether they should leave the area entirely, although they know they should stay.

Based loosely on a real story, Of Gods and Men is getting strong reviews from major critics, including Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly who wrote, “Gravely serene and suffused with tenderness, Of Gods and Men takes the simple, profound stand that how a person of faith lives matters more than the circumstances of his death.”

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