Shaven-headed men in tattoos and ugly goatees. Pretty girls who punch guys out. Hash-slinging diners and trashy neon honky-tonk bars. A jet-black 1969 Dodge Charger. A cherry-red 1970 Chevelle SS 454. (Wow, just writing that made me feel like I know something about cars.) Nicolas Cage in thatchy frosted-blonde Owen Wilson-as-biker hair. (Another Nic Cage hair joke? I bring it up only because there's nothing else to the character.) A devil-worshipping apocalyptic fundamentalist cult, led by a rapist in Jim Jones glasses, who murdered Cage's daughter and now wants to use his baby granddaughter for a blood sacrifice. A plot that's not so much off and running as off the rails and galumphing. 3-D that, except for a few bullets coming at the audience, doesn't exist.
After all the bad Nicolas Cage movies I've sat through, I got lured into seeing Drive Angry because the trailer made it look like it might have a certain shameless, demolition-happy American Mad Max excitement. It tries to, but it's simply not... well done. The car chases are rote and sparse, the gunplay is the usual lock-and-load fetishistic onslaught with heavy-metal trimmings, and even the film's one ''original'' twist is just a desperate attempt to link it up to Ghost Rider, the only lousy Nicolas Cage action film that is actually spawning a sequel. Cage has gotten too old for this stuff, yet one of the reasons people mock him for it is that, after dozens and dozens of paycheck thrillers, he still never looks a hundred percent comfortable in a movie like Drive Angry. His voice is too naturally expressive to lend credence to a somber howler like, ''Hell already is walking the earth.'' Cage has forged his own hell, and it's called: the movies he's addicted to making, even when they trash his brand. D+