Mike Manzi’s 2016: The Year in Cage: Movie Review Wrap-up
Hello and welcome to my year-end #CageClub 2016 wrap-up review. I wanted to take a moment since we discontinued the blog posts and give a few thoughts about the new releases from our favorite actor Nicolas Cage. Cage had many new releases this year, the total count coming in at 5 brand new feature films. I don’t know of any other actor that was in more films this year. While only one of these movies was theatrically released, and it was the one Cage is in the least, I feel like each film has some merit and one especially stands out among the rest. This is my quick look back at 2016 the year in Cage.
Nic Cage and Elijah Wood star as two broke Vegas cops who attempt to pull off a heist that will set them up for life, but they are too inept to mastermind breakfast, let alone some elaborate robbery. While this movie lacked any real emotional punch, it’s a fun little crime caper in which Cage has a terrific mustache and his Dad is played by the legendary Jerry Lewis. The premise is sound enough and the actors are top notch but the story shoots for a dark comedic tone where I feel playing it more straight may have made it even funnier. Cage has a nice moment doing a waiter impression and fumbling like Jerry Lewis might have in his early films, which was nice to see given they are related in the film. The movie feels a bit uneven and I wasn’t quite satisfied with the resolution but I still liked it enough to recommend above most of the other Cage films this year. While it wasn’t a super strong start to the year, I remained optimistic about things to come. It was good to see Cage back in Vegas for a Cagenection !
USS Indianapolis : Men of Courage
Nic Cage and Tom Sizemore have to abandon ship when they are torpedoed by the enemy while returning from a secret mission to deliver the atomic bomb that will end World War II. I was familiar with this story from the movie JAWS, as told by the character Quint, but wasn’t aware it was based on reality. It could be because this was a classified secret mission that was buried in conspiracy and forgotten from history until recently. I was very excited for this film, maybe more so than any other this year, until I saw it. The story is too epic for one film. It may be better serviced as an HBO show like Band of Brothers where we can really connect with the characters and care at all about them when they are shipwrecked in shark infested waters. Cage is really good as the captain of the Indianapolis, but the film wants to focus more on the young crew than the seasoned officers. Unfortunately I am not invested in the movie enough when the shit hits the fan and everyone becomes shark chum. I wish there was more horror and suspense, but there are some quality moments of panic like Sizemore clutching his severed leg until he dies of dehydration or Cage asking if anyone would like some SPAM he found while on the life raft. This one was probably my biggest disappointment of the year because there was so much potential. James Remar returns from The Cotton Club for a Cagenection !
Dog Eat Dog
Nic Cage & Willem Dafoe reunite for this crazy off beat crime film about three lifetime crooks looking for the job that will set them up for good, but their penchant for drugs and violence keep them from ever achieving their dream. Paul Schrader returns to direct for the first time since Dying of the Light, joining the ranks of John Woo and Joel Schumacher, and this time nobody is taking his movie away from him like they did in that Dying of the Light incident. It’s clear here that Schrader is in total control… but he’s out of control. The film is hyper and disjointed with a few moments that reveal what could have been a better movie in more capable hands. Cage is great as the most composed of the three criminals that make up this gang, his intro shot in beautiful black and white with a classic Cage voice over that rivals the one in USS Indianapolis when Cage embarks the ship. While I wish this movie was something else, I do think that Cage gives a really good unhinged performance here because Schrader gives him room to do his thing. My one major problem, and it’s kind of a huge one, is the actual heist. Apparently the big reveal is that the crew intend to kidnap a baby and hold it for ransom, but this development occurs way too late in the film to feel relevant enough. I wish this film was more like Three Men and a Baby, but instead of responsible bachelors looking after the baby, it would be this psycho trio of bad guys who grow and reform due to being responsible for the infant. A big Cagenection is the act of kidnapping a baby which was the premise of a far more superior film, Raising Arizona.
Army of One
Next up we have another movie based on a true story. This time Nic Cage plays real life dialysis patient and American patriot (?) Gary Faulkner, who had a vision from God in which he was tasked with going to Pakistan and capturing Osama Bin Laden to bring him back to America where he can stand trial for justice. For me, this movie was the big surprise of the year. I really forgot it was even coming out and when it did, I was very excited to see that Cage returns to the comedy genre in full force. This role gives Cage a chance to really disguise himself and become Gary behind a big gray beard, long hair and even that strange high pitched voice he used before in Peggy Sue Got Married as well as G-Force. Even though this movie is small and the only other major star is Russel Brand as “The Lord”, I laughed more with this movie than most of the other theatrically released comedies I saw this year. I was pretty upset this movie went straight to video like 4/5 of his films this year, but I’m glad it was made and released at all because Cage is terrific and the movie is really funny. I think what works so well is that it lets the premise play out and trusts in the simplicity of the story. It really does just show Gary and several of his attempts to get to Pakistan and capture O.B.L. He tries by land, sea and air, representing a beacon of hope and determination fueled by good old fashioned American patriotism. Army of One is my favorite new Cage release of the year and probably one of my favorite Nic Cage performances of his entire career ! Best Cagenection of the year is Matthew Modine appearing as Cage’s doctor for a “Birdy” reunion !!!
Last but not least we have Snowden, the final movie we reviewed this year and the only theatrical release for Cage. In Snowden, Cage reunites with Oliver Stone to tell the story of controversial NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Cage is not in this movie very much at all, but I feel he still plays a pretty vital role. His character is what seems to be Snowden 1.0, an older code-cracking cryptographer who is now inactive and spends most his time dusting relics in his basement office and occasionally imparting words of wisdom to the newcomers. Cage is great in this role as quasi-mentor to Snowden, which only makes this worse because his character feels like it could be utilized way more throughout the movie, but instead he is just dropped. I was expecting him to pop up through out the film to give Snowden advice or play the role of a surrogate father figure, but none of that pans out even though it felt set up to happen. The movie itself is fine, but I felt it lacked the balls most Oliver Stone films have and, especially considering the subject matter and content, I was really hoping Stone would go full JFK with this movie; however, it just feels like an average run-of-the-mill movie anyone could have made. Cage is by far my favorite thing about the film and not just because it’s Nic Cage. His character seems to have more life to it than most the others and just by having him be a chain smoker, I get a better sense of his persona than even Snowden at times. It’s too bad we end the year on the film with the least Cage, but at least he was really entertaining when he was on screen. While Cage is in a room in the basement most this movie, Snowden gets to Hawaii towards the end and that reminded me of Honeymoon in Vegas when Cage spent time there trying to win back his fiancé for a Cagenection !
That will do it for Nicolas Cage and the year 2016 ! When we finished Phase One of Cage Club at the start of the year, I did not expect to be covering so much new material so soon. Although most of the movies did not live up to my expectations, Cage always delivered and I was never disappointed with his performances. It’s still too bad that all of his staring roles wound up on VOD and not in theaters, but these are the times we live in and at least he was in one theatrical release to remind the general public that he is still around. The big surprise of the year was, by far, without a doubt, Army of One. Such a bizarre premise made even more insane due to how rooted in fact it actually was. Sure, there were liberties taken, but it’s still based on the true story of a guy who went to Pakistan to capture Bin Laden himself, and that this movie even exists is hilarious. I would also recommend The Trust because Cage and Elijah Wood have really good chemistry and Cage delivers a very physical performance as well as a classic Cage freak out that only he can. I’d say this was pretty good for Cage and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store. — Mike