7 movies that made Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer ‘Drive Angry’ with Nicolas Cage

I’ve seen “Drive Angry 3D” twice now, and I’ll say it plain:  it’s fun. 

It is big and silly and badass and fun.  Nicolas Cage is so totally in on the joke from the moment he appears onscreen and William Fichtner is commanding, to say the least.  Amber Heard is Amber Heard, as preposterously sculpted as ever, and she does indeed play an archetypical Last Girl with a great deal of gusto.

In building their muscle-car mythology, Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer spoke fluent film nerd to each other, as they do in any conversation you have with either of them, and especially when they’re together.  I find I’m speaking a lot of the same particular language as them, which may be why I enjoy their work.

They sent over something just for you today, a back-and-forth look at seven movies that left unmistakable fingerprints on “Drive Angry 3D.”  Just reading the way they digested these movies, I think you’ll get a real clear idea of whether or not you’re interested in what they’ve done.  They make a case for their film better than I can, so check this out and see if you’re in tune with them, too:

“Groundhog Day”: Patrick

When Todd and I started yacking about what how we wanted to follow up “My Bloody Valentine,” we found ourselves talking ’70’s road movies.  We knew we wanted to shoot 3D again but thought we should not do a straight horror, but something that could really push the 3D format.  The car chase/action/road movie just made sense.  We talked through a lot of scenarios, a lot of different ways the story could go, what it could be called, and then one of us said:  “Don’t Drive Angry,” Bill Murray’s line to Punxsutawney  Phil while driving headfirst into the bottom of a quarry.  From that we spun to “Drive Angry”.  And the movie began to shape out of what that meant, not so much an action, but an attitude.

“The Terminator”: Todd

We knew early on that our lead would be both chasing and chased.  When it comes to the perfect hunter, it’s hard to beat “The Terminator.”  We simply put the robot in a Hugo Boss and gave him an amused attitude and a bounce in his step.  But “The Terminator” (and most Cameron movies for that matter) offer something else that people tend to overlook, and that’s the incredibly empowered female lead.  It’s my one great theft from the Jimmy C.  Every script I have ever written has at least one ball busting female lead.  Piper is both a fighter and the heart of the movie.  She goes up against the baddest of the bad that the male race has to offer and not only holds her own, but throws a few punches in return.

“Race with the Devil”:  Patrick

This was ‘forbidden fruit’ when I was a kid.  I remember the trailer and becoming obsessed with this movie, begging my parents to let me see it.  But that was a big ‘No, it’ll give you nightmares!’.  So… my older sister saw it and as she did with films like “The Exorcist,” “The Parallax View,” and so many others, knowing I wasn’t allowed to see them, she described it to me beat by beat.  I couldn’t believe what happened at the end of “Race with the Devil.”  The image, as described by my sister, stayed with me.  Suddenly that “Big Jim Sports Camper” was nothing more than Cultist Bait, ready to be torched by Satanists.  Finally, years later, I saw “Race with the Devil,” and while it may not have had the punch of either “The Exorcist,” “The Omen” or even “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry,” it was a great spooky piece of cinematic paranoia and road rage.  For “Drive Angry,” Todd and I knew we wanted Cultists.   What could be scarier than fanatics blindly following a false prophet who was half Jim Jones and half Jim Morrison – as embodied by the amazing Billy Burke?

“High Plains Drifter”: Todd

Once we knew Milton had escaped from more than just an ordinary prison, “High Plains Drifter” was an obvious influence.  In fact, when I first moved to LA, I became friends with Dean Riesner, the screenwriter behind “Dirty Harry”, “Play Misty For Me,” and “High Plains Drifter” among others.  He wrote people with their flaws intact.  And we used that with “Drive Angry.”  It’s not about good VS bad.  EVERYBODY is bad.  It’s about degrees of bad.  Our heroes just happen to be the lesser evils.  So we chose the Eastwood western that annoyed John Wayne as our influence and we’re okay with that.  Even the first appearance of the Accountant is a direct homage to the “High Plains” opening.  What is interesting is that we never mentioned this influence to anyone.  So it was incredible when Nic showed up and made no secret that he was channelling “High Plains Drifter”.  That’s when you know you did it right.

“Duel”/”Vanishing Point”/”Dirty Mary Crazy Larry”: Patrick

When we first started talking about writing a ’70’s style road movie, all three of these films came to both Todd and I immediately.  “Duel,” an early Spielberg film, is so rich with tension and suspense, and hung on the simplest hook: a salesman on the road is being run down by an unseen figure in a tanker truck.  For a 17 day shoot, it’s incredible to see the intense coverage Spielberg captured of the dueling vehicles on the road.  For sheer metal and metal action rooted into its absolute basics, you can’t beat “Duel”.  The setting of roadside diners, gas stations and dives had a lot of appeal for us as we created the world of “Drive Angry.” 

“Vanishing Point”‘s existential journey across the Western states is fueled, not by explanation, but by mood, by tone and by the very nature of fulfilling a goal no matter what the cost.   Barry Newman’s character, his relentless nature to hit his deadline, appealed to both Todd and I in the creation of Milton.  “Vanishing Point” also has this surreal quality to it, especially the Charlotte Rampling scene deleted from US versions of the film.  In that, you can see traces of a journey that expands more than just physical roads. 

And finally, “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry” – the tone, the execution, all of this film is a blast.  The characters are weak on morals but you love ’em anyway.  Their plan to steal money so they can enter a race may seem pretty shallow, but you climb into the backseat with them without hesitation.  You want them to win.  You want them to get away.  Do they deserve to?  Not if you’re Vic Morrow, the police captain chasing them.  And the end of that film… well it embodies so much of the tone of the early ’70’s road movies.


Here’s a new clip from the movie to go with the new photo at the top of the story:

“Drive Angry” opens in theaters everywhere February 25.