Wraith, The

If you are frequenting this website, there is a strong possibility that you have seen The Crow (1994)Brandon Lee’s final picture about one man raining supernatural vengeance upon those that so thoroughly wronged himself and his girlfriend.  The Crow takes itself very seriously almost to the point of turning into an emo-filled parade.  However, if you’re less of a Hot Topic person and more of a Dick’s Sporting Goods guy, you may want to watch Mike Marvin’s The Wraith, the story of Charlie Sheen raining supernatural vengeance upon those that wronged him…..with car racing.

Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) and his gang of “road pirates” (an actual term used in the film) stalk the highways of Arizona, strong-arming unwilling muscle car drivers into racing for pink slips and then chopping up the cars to sell the parts on the black market.  The gang comes across as The New Kids on the Block equivalent of black marketeering.  There is the leader (Packard), the preppy one Minty, the nerdy one (Rughead played by the one, the only Clint Howard), the gay one (Oggie), the redneck one (Gutterboy), and the so-addicted-to-drugs-he-snorts-transmission-fluid one (Skank).  Their hideout/garage looks like the modern version of The Monkees’ old house adorned with neon and even sporting a pinball machine!

Packard’s frustrated.  Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) is giving his gang a hard time just because of all the violence and destruction they cause.  The woman he loves (Sherilynn Fenn) will not put out no matter how many people he bludgeons to prove his undying love to her.  And now, this kid on a motorcycle (Charlie Sheen) has ridden into town to steal his thunder.  What’s a road pirate to do?

What does this have to do with Charlie Sheen wreaking his supernatural vengeance?  Well, not a lot which is why the narrative is so confusing.  Charlie Sheen is in the film for maybe 15 minutes all told and his scenes involve either him spouting philosophical nonsense that would even make Kwai Chang Caine grimace or taking Sherilynn Fenn’s bathing suit off.   For all intents and purposes, Packard is the main character of the story of a ghost coming back from the dead to get revenge on Packard.  Now, this would not be a downside if this were an extended episode of Tales from the Crypt.  However, in an 80s movie that plays out more like Better Off Dead (1985) with race cars, it gets a little confusing as to for whom the audience is meant to root.

These are all the questions that will bother you if you can make it past the fact the plot is there only to service a 90 minute car commercial.  And what fancy cars they are!  The titular Wraith drives a one of a kind “Turbo Interceptor,” which comes across as the most interesting character in the film.  Which, for the NASCAR crowd, will show that Mike Marvin was not a bad filmmaker, but was actually ahead of his time.

Drive Angry 3D

A few days ago, my father asked me if Nicholas Cage was able to make a good movie anymore.  Having recently watched trailers for Next (2007)Knowing (2009), and The Sorceror’s Apprentice (2010), I immediately responded with no small amount of sadness, “no.”

Then I saw Drive Angry.

Now, like Zarathustra taught us the Ubermensch, the Cavalcade teaches to you the Drive Angry!

John Milton (Nicholas Cage) has broken out of Hell in a sweet muscle car.  This is a completely different concept from Ghost Rider (2007), in which Nicholas Cage is possessed by a demon hunting other demons on behalf of the Devil with a sweet chopper.  His purpose: to stop Satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) from using his granddaughter in a sacrificial rite to bring Hell to Earth.  In between Milton breaking out of Hell and [Spoiler Alert] stopping King is nothing short of glorious.

Brought to us by the writer/director team Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier who have brought us epics like Jason X (2001) and My Bloody Valentine 3-D (2009)Drive Angry’s primary goal is showing as many car stunts, bodily mutilations, and gratuitous nudity as humanly possible in 104 minutes.  Gentle readers, you have to understand, the marketing for this film is deplorable.  Remember those commercials with Cage shooting people in a hotel room and dodging an axe thrown at his head?  What the advertisers do not want you to know is that Cage is actually having sex with a completely naked woman the entire time!

I do not have the space or the legal rights to list every incredible action stunt in the picture.  But I can tell you about the performances featured in this film because they are all gold.  Cage is surprisingly restrained here.  There is maybe one Elvis-ism, no screeching, and no quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake.  Cage plays it straight and it works perfectly.  Lussier takes full advantage of Cage’s ability to go from zero to BROODING in .0005 seconds flat.

Amber Heard is plays Milton’s sidekick, Piper.  Having only seen her previously as “406” in Zombieland (2009), I did not expect much.  This actress is phenomenal.  She is essentially Elly May Clampett if she were metal.  Billy Burke’s ability to work leather pants and puffy shirts while simultaneously making any semi-religious nonsense sound like the Gettysburg Address firmly cement him as the heir-apparent too Billy Drago.  Our esteemed screenwriter, Todd Farmer, makes a cameo doing exactly the same thing as he did in My Bloody Valentine 3-D.

However, the man that steals the show is William Fichtner.  Playing “The Account,” the Devil’s bounty hunter, Ficthner joins the “Why didn’t anyone think to give him superpowers before?” list.  Said list includes Christopher Walken after The Prophecy (1995) and Robert Forster in season two of "Heroes." Fichtner glides through the movie as the entire world is his amusement park.  Drive Angry Fun Fact: It is!

The thing is, you all have to go out and embrace this film in the 3-D in which it was intended.  If you don’t, we’ll never get another one.  And we need another one.  This is a film that gives Nicholas Cage license to say with complete seriousness that he will not drink a beer unless it is the skull of his mortal enemy.

Wanna guess what he does before the credits roll?