Call me crazy, but Nicolas Cage is one of the best actors of his generation. Make no mistake, Nicolas Cage has been in some horrible, devastatingly repulsive films in his day, but I have never watched Nicolas Cage do anything that I didn’t totally believe. It’s interesting, Cage can exist in a horribly written, sloppily directed film and only exude total belief and certitude in the world he is in. In his Wicker Man performance, Cage punches women, hates bees, screams, punches more women (in a bear suit!), and then questions the reasonability of flammable objects flaming, and I believe every cheesy, horrible second of it. Can we blame Cage for how terrible this movie is? I’m sure some of you are saying, “Yes…yes we can.”
|I’m not balding.
But we can’t!
You see, Nicolas Cage is the amplifier for his writer/director’s electric guitar. And believe me, Nicolas Cage goes to 11. Neil Labute, the man to blame for Wicker Man‘s existence, is also the man to blame for its supreme suckage (it’s a word, look it up). He gave Cage lines of dialogue to read and perform, and he set up scenes for Cage to run around in. Cage was just doing his job. The man is a working actor, he needs to get paid. Yes, Labute is a working director and he needs to produce films, but Labute is in the wrong, here. You see, he decided that a movie containing the previously stated elements would be a good idea (not to mention the fact that it’s a totally needless remake), and he hired Cage to make all of these things happen onscreen. The previous Wicker Man is a solid thriller with a semi-cult following, and Labute had a good track record before this film started shooting. The script, when Cage signed on, was not yet finished, and Cage signed on because of the quality of Labute’s previous efforts.
Of course, we can say that Cage could have backed out during filming, but Cage is horrible with money and really cannot afford quitting. Plus, we have to remember that an amplifier might blow out, but it will continue making a horrible noise until you unplug it, mixed metaphors aside, that is the science of an amplifier.
Anyway, yes Wicker Man sucks, but Cage’s performance in the film is totally and exactly what the movie calls for. He is simply a vessel for the movie’s terribleness (also a word), and we cannot blame a car on the highway for being too fast, it’s the driver.
Cage’s amazing gift of doing exactly what is asked of him has done him well in the past. You see, there was once a time where Cage didn’t have enough money to be broke. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense, but it really really does. During these years, Cage was utilized in films like Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas, Wild at Heart, Bringing Out the Dead, and Adaptation. All of these films are highly regarded, especially Cage’s performances in them, and for a while he seemed to be one of the shining Coppola’s.
|I’m not balding.
But something happened, something terrible, Cage got too rich. Now he is an equally amazing vessel, a perfect concert amp, being used by $20.00 guitars. We have John Turtletaub, (3 Ninjas) director of National Treasure and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice making films specifically for Nicolas Cage. Cage is giving his all for his performances in these films, but the directors can’t handle his perfectly detailed sound. There is no distortion, no grunge, it is perfect sound coming from people who cannot play their instruments correctly.
Case in point, we find Cage in a place where he will literally accept any film role (Money problems are the culprit, but maybe, just maybe, he accepts anything because he is performing some sort of experiment that weeds out the good directors from the bad) that he is offered. So we have him appearing in Ghost Rider, Next, Drive Angry 3D, and Season of the Witch. None of these movies seem particularly amazing, but we also have his outstanding, mesmerizing, bewitching, transcendent performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and his fun performance in Kick-Ass. With these last two performances, at least personally, I think Cage is showing the public that he is more than capable as an actor. In fact, Cage seems to be showing us what he really is.
In Kick-Ass, Cage is totally believable as an insane man that has taken it upon himself to be Batman. He has the voice, the physicality, the charisma. Cage leaps off of the screen as this character and brings life the film. He is amplifying the smart writing and making everything around him seem even better than it is because the person playing their instrument is doing something right.
In Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Cage is working for the totally insane, yet brilliant, film director Werner Herzog. Cage’s performance as the titular lieutenant escalates the film to mythic proportions with lines like, “Shoot him again, his soul is still dancing” and “These iguanas are playing the harmonica.” The actor completely devotes himself to the director, and in turn makes the film that Herzog wanted to make. Any other actor would have gotten lost in the material and become self-conscious: not Nicolas Cage. He can totally lend his abilities to the maker and let them do whatever they can with him.
Some people may take Cage’s more bombastic performances as hamminess, but what we are really seeing is the work of a director who does not have the maturity of talent to know how much is too much. Like an amplifier turned up too loud, Cage is sometimes used too much and drowns out the other players. This is not his fault, but the fault of the people in charge.
So please, if you’re a director, only use Nicolas Cage if you trust in your skill. Because his ability to be whatever you want him to be only showcases your flaws, not his.