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General Musings

The Cage Files: Vol. 1 – Tokarev, Left Behind, Dying of The Light


It is the festive party season, which meant the wife was out for the night on one of her work Christmas parties.  This meant that the TV was at my mercy.  Now, it is pretty much well documented that I am a huge Nicolas Cage fan and over the last year I had amassed a new collection of his films that I had not seen.  With a pizza in the oven, a few cans in the fridge, I could think of no better way to spend the evening.

In total, I own 56 Nicolas Cage films on either dvd or blu ray and to say that his output has diminished in quality over the years would be an understatement.  The three films on this list was all purchased under £4, less than a year after they were made.  So, are they really as bad as they sound or is there a hidden gem in there?  Without further ado, let’s find out


 

RageTokarev (Paco Cabezas, 2014)

Known as Rage is the US and beyond, this is billed as a rampage of revenge, as Nicolas Cage’s retired criminal gets his old crew back together to track down the people who kidnapped his daughter.  Sounds decent, right?  Not exactly.

The title refers to a make of Russian gun, which is daft in itself, as Cage’s character is pictured with, and whose weapon of choice throughout is a knife… The action starts with a Paul Maguire (Cage), a well dressed business man with a beautiful young trophy wife and a teenage daughter.  We slowly find out that he is a reformed criminal and is still friends with his old crew, who have been less successful at giving up the life.

When Paul’s daughter is kidnapped he fears that his past has come back to haunt him and along with his buddies start looking for revenge and become tangled up with Russian Mafia, but when they cant find any evidence of anyone taking her, things start to unravel.

This is a poor film, now given Cage’s recent output, I wasn’t expecting a classic like Con Air or Wild At Heart, but this is just a badly made film, with some extremely clunky editing, unforgivably slow pacing and slo-mo action scenes that are about 20 years out of date.  Cage is on auto pilot here, with very little to do other than cry over his daughter or shout at his friends.  The rest of the cast are made up by a collection of straight to dvd actors, with the exception of Danny Glover as the cop who tries to keep Paul on the straight and narrow.  To say he is too old to play this role is an understatement.

This very much falls into the so bad that it is good category.  I spent most of its mercifully short run time, laughing at how bad it was and enjoying Nicolas Cage mugging it up.  Stand out scenes are a podgy Cage struggling to chase down a Russian goon (who has already been shot), or the brilliantly cringy “you talked” shouting match with Michael McGrady.  To end it all, we have an utterly terrible twist ending that is stolen from Mystic River.  Bad on almost every level, but a must for all of you Cage fans out there.


 

Left BehindLeft Behind (Vic Armstrong, 2014)

Based on the Christian novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry  B. Jenkins, which tells the story of The Rapture, where God calls all of his faithful home to heaven before bringing about the end of the world.  The survivors band together to make sense of it all, form something called The Tribulation Force and fight the anti-christ.  Now, believe in God or not, the premise of the novel and its many sequels (15 and counting) is a decent one and The Book of Revelation itself lends itself to some pretty sensational cinema ideas.  Sadly, this film is nothing like this.  Not even close.

We open with Chloe Steele heading home from College to her father’s birthday party.  Her father Rayford (Cage) is not there as he is avoiding his bible bashing wife by taking on an extra shift as an airline pilot.  While looking for her father at the airport, she meets investigative journalist Buck (Chad Michael Murray) who has been investigating natural disasters around the world.  When half the population disappears, Chloe, Buck and Rayford have to make sense of the madness.

This is by far the worst film I have ever seen.  Ever.  It is beyond terrible and tested my loyalty to Nicolas Cage like never before.  The shoddy direction, micro budgeted effects and wooden acting aside, the film just doesn’t commit one way or the other.  The Anti Christ character is removed, so there is no bad guy, the “rapture” is only suggested to be an act of God, the film feels like it is hedging its bets in order to gain a wider audience.  It would have been better off going all out for the christian angle, at least that was it would be guaranteed and audience and maybe made a little bit of sense.  What we have here is a quasi-christian action movie that is so devoid of tension or excitement it makes the 1 hr 45 running time feel like 40 days and 40 nights.  Nicolas Cage, well, it is almost like film makers have made a copy of him out of wood and animated it, with Dan’s hero Chad Michael Murray faring little better as the overarching hero of the piece.  This is appalling in every way imaginable


 

dying of the lightDying of The Light (Paul Schrader, 2014)

Directed by long time Martin Scorsese writer Paul Schrader and produced by the director Drive, things must be looking up, surely…   Dying of the Light is a marginal improvement on Tokarev, but honestly it is just a bit dull.

Nicolas Cage plays Ethan Lake, an experienced CIA Agent, who has never gotten over being kidnapped and tortured by terrorists 20 years earlier.  He is reduced to working a desk and the highlight of his working life is giving speeches to new recruits.  When his prodigy Milt (Anton Yelchin) finds evidence that his terrorist nemesis is still alive, Ethan is back in the game, the only problem is that he is suffering from early Frontal Temporal Dementia.

It is ok actually, the worst thing about it, other than Anton Yelchin’s hair is that it is just a bit dull.  Not much happens at all.  Cage is fine as the aging agent, but his dementia symptoms are limited to the odd bouts of rage (obviously) and the odd flashback that leads to forgetfulness.  Not very convincing.

The direction is basic at best, and I expected more from a script written by the guy who gave us Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but sadly, what I got was a pretty dull revenge film.


 

So there we have it, an evening with Nicolas Cage, Kelly has a few more nights out this month, so I think I need to re-visit some classics to remind me of the man in his prime.

For now, if you do nothing else, then please make sure that you never watch Left Behind, life is just too short…

Thanks for reading x

About Snooty Usher Dave

Favourite Film : Ghostbusters (1984) Worst Film: Left Behind (2014) Guilty Pleasure: Pitch Perfect (2012) 40 year old family man from Hamilton, Scotland. I have settled in Gateshead with my wife and 2 beautiful daughters. Worked as a Cinema Manager (or glorified usher) for 14 years, now I run a chicken shop. Love Sport especially Football and Tennis. Love comic books, especially DC and particularly Superman. I own 58 Nicolas Cage films.

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