Nicholas Cage should be more highly regarded than he is. His reputation should be much better and he should be considered one of the best actors Hollywood and the movie business in general has. There is a lot to be said for his choices of films, mixing the fun, action and more “popcorn” films with those that are a lot more heavyweight and really show off how good an actor he can be. Unfortunately, he seems to make more of the former type of films than the latter.
I do love the “popcorn” movies. Con-Air and The Rock are two of my all-time favourite action movies. It’s just that for every Gone in 60 Seconds that Nicholas Cage makes, he also seems to make The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I’ve spoken before about how Cage seems to pick films just for the payday and easy cash. He doesn’t need to do this though. He could be holding much better films parts off the back of great performances in better films, like Lord of War, 8mm and Bad Lieutenant.
I saw the original Bad Lieutenant and didn’t like it. I’ve recently written about my opinion of Harvey Keitel and the 1992 version just didn’t hold my interest. It was slow, self-indulgent and felt pointless. Cage’s Bad Lieutenant, according to it’s director Werner Herzog, is not a remake of the Keitel version, and I’m pleased, because it is a much better film.
If any comparisons are to be made, two things put this film a different league to its 1992 counterpart, the acting and the story. Nicholas Cage demonstrates exactly why he should be making meatier, better films as standard, rather than producing more and more “popcorn” movies. He is dark and menacing when called for but as a drug addict, plays crazy in a way that only Nicholas Cage can. We see a man at the height of confidence and cockiness and then watch as his world slowly unfolds around him and Cage handles all of this effortlessly.
The way in which events transpire against Cage’s Terence McDonagh, is what keeps the film interesting. Accidentally crossing Mob figures, going into business with a scary drug dealer and trying to maintain his reliance on pain killers for a back injury, make a perfect mix of situations that Cage’s character juggles, manipulates and slyly attempts to get the better of. It makes for engrossing watching and you do wonder how the character will maintain the life he has been so precariously living so far.
Cage is also ably supported. Val Kilmer shows that he still has some acting credentials and really needs another breakthrough role to get back into the spotlight again. Eva Mendes does a great job of playing his prostitute girlfriend and her scenes later in the film with Tom Bower and Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s Mum) as Cage’s parents are some of the best in the film. Even Xzibit, as the drug dealer that Cage makes a dangerous deal with, holds his own alongside quite a decent cast.
Cage’s performance and the better storyline doesn’t necessarily make this a great film though. It isn’t doing anything special and it probably could have done more with Cage as the main character. His story is compelling, you want to watch until the end and I certainly wasn’t bored at any point but at the same time, I wasn’t “blown-away” or impressed either. Cage gives a great performance and shows he is better than some of the other films he makes but he could have done more here.
Overall, I was pleased that this was nothing like the 1992, Harvey Keitel version. The performance from Nicholas Cage and the intertwining threads and situations that make up the story make for a very good film but with Cage giving one of his best performances, he could, and should, probably have been pushed even further.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)