It is no secret among to those who know us that Nicolas Cage is a bit of a legend around Snooty Usher Towers. I am a particular champion of the great mans work. There is a story behind it, which I will tell at a later date. For now, join me as I have a look at the once Academy Award winning actor latest offerings.
I now own 61 of Nicolas Cage’s 70 odd films, the once great man’s cinematic career looks to be behind him now with the majority of his work now going straight to DVD (his appearance in Oliver Stone’s upcoming Snowden being the exception). On this particular evening, I chose 3 of his more recent offerings. So, with my good friend and fellow Cage fan Rich Cowey in tow and armed with an 8 pack of Irn Bru, a share bag of Walker’s crisps, slush puppy ice pops and enough tea to float an armada, it was time to get involved.
Pay The Ghost (Uli Edel, 2015)
Based on a short story by Tim Lebbon, from a Horror anthology called October Dreams, this promised to be a spine chilling tale set against the back drop of Halloween in New York. With support from Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies, I was a little bit optimistic for a reasonably creepy thriller.
Here, Nicolas Cage is Mike Lawford, a professor who is up for tenure at a prestigious New York University. He lives a happy life but his quest for tenure has left him little time to spend with his wife Kristen (Callies) and his young son Charlie. One Halloween, he is late home and to make up for missing trick or treating, takes his son to the Halloween Parade. It is here that disaster strikes. Charlie disappears, after uttering the phrase “Pay The Ghost”. A year later and Mike is frantic, he begins seeing his son everywhere and as he digs a little deeper, he discovers the legend of a woman who, a century before, was killed as a witch along with her three kids. She promised to return every Halloween to claim three children as compensation. Mike races against time to rescue his son from the afterlife, while facing a world who wont believe him.
Okay, so cards on the table. This was utter nonsense, on every level, but I actually really enjoyed it. It is one of those films that is bad enough that it is actually fun to point out the short comings. Nicolas Cage is fine as the tortured dad, however he is just a bit old to be playing this kind of role and looked uncomfortably older that his co-star. He would have been more convincing as the kids grand dad, he does however give us some classic Cage “acting” moments as he attempts to convey a sense of loss and grief, either that or he had indigestion.
The film is set in New York City, but it is painfully obvious, even to me who has never set foot in the place that it is shot elsewhere. The big issue with the film is that the entity at the heart of the piece is never really focused on in any detail and when it is, it makes some pretty daft decisions. *Spoilers* There is a moment, when Nicolas Cage’s colleague at the University, uncovers the history and location of the witch and probable location of his son, however, the spectre waits until she has given him all the information before deciding to kill her. The film is littered with more gaping plot holes like that one and lumbered with some pretty ropy effects. It is poor, there is no getting away from that, but I have to say that it was entertaining, if only for the fun of picking it apart. I would like to tell you that they didn’t take themselves too seriously, but the thrilling making of doc on the blu ray revels that they think they have a horror classic on their hands. They don’t, but I have to say it was a fun watch.
Outcast (Nick Powell, 2015)
Next up was this tale a pair of world weary crusaders who find themselves embroiled in battle for the imperial throne. With former Jedi Hayden Christensen as his co-star and a jazzy holographic slip cover, I was expecting a low budget sword fight movie, if it got near the quality of Season Of The Witch, I would be happy. It didn’t even get close…
When the young heir to the Imperial Throne is threatened and made to go on the run to avoid his hated older brother, his only hope is a war weary, battle scarred crusader Jacob (Christensen) who is drowning his demons at the bottom of a bottle. In order to protect the young king and his sister, he must rally the assistance of legendary outlaw The White Ghost (Cage). Can the pair protect the king and restore order to the oppressed country?
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This film is just a total mess. For a start and maybe the films biggest flaw, despite having top billing and featuring prominently on the DVD cover, Nicolas Cage is hardly in it. For some reason, Cage and Christensen adopt some kind of a Celtic accent that I couldn’t quite make out and it is embarrassing. Not only did the film make no narrative sense, it didn’t make any geographical sense. The characters are attempting to get from one place to another, which is fine but one second they are in a lush green forest, then in a dessert, then in a rocky hill surrounded by caves. This is all within the space of a day, what Country are they supposed to be in that can provide this type of changing landscape.
The film is diabolical, badly written, badly directed, the fight scenes are woeful and the editing, well, I am sure my 4 year old could have produced a better final cut than this. The performances, oh boy, Hayden Christensen hasn’t been around for a while, I am not sure where he has been but he certainly wasn’t honing his acting skills, a plank of wood has more passion and charisma. By the time we actually see Nicolas Cage (apart from a brief prologue) he does his best to infuse his oafish Porthos clone with some sort of gusto, but he is saddled with a terrible script and a god awful accent. The character is supposed to have lost his eye, but the budget must not have stretched to an eye patch as Cage has to keep his eye closed, something that he doesn’t quite manage.
While Pay The Ghost was bad in a good way, this is just bad. Complete waste of time. It makes Season of The Witch look like Spartacus. While this isn’t not Cage’s fault, he isn’t great here, but even at his worst he is better than this god awful excuse for a film.
The Runner (Austin Clark, 2015)
The final film of the evening, following the lows of Outcast, a low key pot boiling political thriller inspired by true events was in order. This boasted a strong support cast that featured Sarah Paulson, Connie Neilson, Wendell Pierce and Peter Fonda, so what could go wrong?
In the aftermath of the 2010 BP oil spill, Cage plays idealistic politician Colin Pryce make an impassioned speech about the devastation the spill has caused his local community. With a run a a Senate seat a formality the world is his oyster. That is until he is caught up in a sex scandal that costs him his political career. Left with nothing, hits the bottle and struggles to get his life back together.
While this is based on a real life event, this is not a true story, it only uses the BP oil spill as a backdrop. I had high-ish hopes for this, as it would give Nicolas Cage a chance to actually do some acting. He does fine as the politician whose ideals, while noble are out weighted by his self destructive nature, the film is just dull as dish water. It is a well worn notion at Snooty Usher Towers, that we understand that sometimes you can make a bad film, for any number of reasons, but it is unforgivable to make a boring film, and this is just that. Even at a brisk 86 minutes the film completely outstays its welcome.
The performances are fine across the board, it is that nothing really happens. Sure, we follow Pryce on his destructive journey, but it just isn’t that interesting and his destructive actions don’t really seem to have any consequences. Whether it be his relapse into alcoholism or his affair with his publicist, he is able to shake of both quite easily. At the end of the him, we find Colin Pryce right back where he started, running for The Senate and going to win. Is this an damning indictment of US politics? If it is, everyone who watches it until the end will be too bored to care.
Good performance from Cage but it is just excruciatingly dull.
So, that brings to a close to my latest journey into The Cage Files, if you enjoyed this, then check out the previous installments:
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.