Midlands Movies Feature - Top 10 Nicolas Cage films
Nicolas Cage. Well, what can you say?
Critics have described the actor as a pantomime or someone who reverts to over-the-top performances to compensate for a lack of quality. Others (such as Roger Ebert, no less) have noted that he has an “operatic” air to his work. In a world of method acting and weight gain/loss, the overdramatic theatrics of Nicolas Cage still dazzles and confuses fans in equal measure.
So, without too much ado, I plan to look back at 10 of my favourite (not necessarily the critics’ best) films the actor has appeared in. Right off the bat, I admit to being a much bigger fan of his action roles than his serious work but Cage has always been one to have taken many risks in his career. Never can anyone say that he’s not a very risky proposition for a film. An unlikely, sometimes odd-looking, leading man, his box office draw appears has subsided somewhat with an increase in straight to DVD “filler” and far less quality (but still very much of quantity).
A glut of poor choices more recently has seen the likes of Drive Angry and Ghost Rider 2 but still in the mix in the last few years are films like Joe (a notable return to form) and a supporting role in Kick *ss showing he still has the cinematic charisma that drew audiences in the first place.
Wikipedia cites 76 (!) films he has appeared in with 42 of those since 2000. Man, the boy Cage is prolific if nothing else so here’s some of my favourites from the huge body of work from a man whose roller-coaster of a career has no sign of letting up (4 Cage-helmed films were released in 2014 alone).
Close but not quite making it was the car-tastic schlock of Gone in 60 Seconds, his greasy-rocker road movie in Lynch’s Wild at Heart, the comedian Cage in the Coen’s Raising Arizona and the more recent bayou drama Joe.
N.B. Big thanks to Nick Staniforth who first published our article over at our good friends at Reel Good
10. Adaptation (2002)
Cage plays two roles in this meta-project from the warped mind of Charlie Kaufman which covers Kaufman’s own struggles in adapting The Orchid Thief for the cinema. Covering depression and writer’s block, Cage’s role as both brothers allows him to experiment with his own duality with his dark and brooding choices conflicting with his blockbuster sensibilities of the brother. An Academy Award nod saw Cage with the best critical reception in years and a testament to his acting ability when given the right material.
9. Lord of War (2005)
Andrew Nichol directs Cage as a Ukrainian-American arms dealer in this drama and dissection of war, conflict and weaponry. Tracing the story over many years across a global backdrop, Cage is great as the morally ambiguous gunrunner and the slightly heavy handed message is neatly wrapped up in a Cage performance that shows both a family man and his criminality and the ultimate if inevitable end game of human destruction.
8. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Winning the Academy Award for Best Actor, Cage’s most lauded role is as an alcoholic heading to the big city in order to drink himself to death. Cage embodies the carnage as a trail of broken dreams and his own broken body are the focus of a dark and disturbing film. With great support from Elizabeth Shue who balances the extremes of Cage’s performance, the film is a superb study of the dangers of addiction but you may struggle to sit through multiple viewings given its power and Cage’s haunting embodiment.
7. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Werner Herzog re-imagines Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film and Cage challenges the previous incarnation as the craziest copper in town with this police-crime drama. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Cage’s Policeman spins out of control in a haze of drugs, corruption and lizard hallucinations. A solid tale of bribery, contraband and conflict, Cage’s experience with substance abusive characters is again showcased in this addictive film set in the Big Easy.
6. Kick Ass (2010)
Very much a supporting role in Matthew Vaughan’s violent take on comic book superheroes, Cage excels as the father to Hit-Girl in this subversive 2010 flick. Channelling every ounce of Adam West’s 1960s Batman (from the obvious bat-suit similarities to the pauses and strange ticks), Cage shows a quirky restraint but also a much needed adult focal point to the adolescent action throughout. With added moustache, Cage breathes eccentric life into an eccentric character helping to balance out the group of have a go heroes.
5. Snake Eyes (1998)
A film many critics and audiences never took to, Brian De Palma’s movie about a policeman (a staple of Cage) trying to solve a murder at a televised boxing match is an underrated gem in my book. From the directorial flourishes of split screen and long tracking shots, De Palma uses Cage’s watchability to ensure the 10-minute opening one-shot focuses on Cage’s character from the start. A series of genre tropes are mixed in with a narrative that plays and then re-plays sequences for the audience – along with Cage – to see things from different angles. Cage himself, portrays the character too from different angles as he transforms from smarmy cop to duped fool in this twisty and taut thriller.
4. National Treasure 1 & 2 (2004 & 2007)
Right, I don’t care what you say, the 2 National Treasure films are a highlight of Cage for me. Where Cage often went for independent strangeness or blockbuster action, this could have been one of his biggest departures ever. Could Cage really carry a family-friendly Disney movie? Well yes. And he even upsets purists by keeping Sean Bean alive by the end of it! Part Indiana Jones and part Da Vinci Code, director John Turtletaub makes a stupidly fun and idiotically entertaining film that those two missteps could only dream of being. A heist adventure with comedy capers thrown in, Cage’s now blockbuster likeability helps him play cat and mouse with previous Bad Lieutenant Harvey Keitel!
3. The Rock (1996)
Michael Bay has made some terrible films of late and his music-video aesthetic, wafer thin characters and sickening gyratory camera shots are now the stuff of parody. Yet, he did direct The Rock. The Rock was made immediately after Leaving Las Vegas and tells how Cage (Stanley Goodspeed) travels to Alcatraz to help release hostages held by National Treasure 2’s Ed Harris with the help of ex-MI5 convict Sean Connery. A surreal set of action beats, car chases, shootouts and punch ups are helped by the buddy-cop back-and-forth between Cage and Connery. Of course it’s silly and OTT but Cage and his fans wouldn’t have it any other way
2. Con Air (1997)
Cage’s hair has been famous throughout his career but never more so in this all-out action prison break-cum-airplane flick. A b-movie premise (escaping prisoners take over a plane) utilises Cage’s balding yet flowing locks as his good con tries to keep hostages alive and the authorities on his side. Comedy, action and a great villain (John Malkovich’s “Cyrus the Virus”) help package this film as a suitable follow up to The Rock but with Cage as the prisoner this time. Further great support from John Cusack and Steve Buscemi seals the deal with Cage demanding the “bunny back in the box” as he fights his way to freedom on a flight full of felons.
1. Face/Off (1997)
You’ve just won an Oscar and you’ve followed that up with 2 of the best action films of the 1990s so what did Cage do next? Well make another one of the best action films. Focusing more on fists and guns, the film is perfect to show one of Cage’s signature skills in playing two sides of character (see all films above). In this movie, he literally plays two characters (he starts as the insane Castor Troy & switches to the good cop Sean Archer for most of the film) and along with Travolta, both actors get to play off not only their character traits but their fellow actor in a riotous role-reversal. The story is silly, Cage is cool, crazy and criminal and the premise is ludicrous but John Woo decides to use the multi-faceted Cage, whose career is made up of using extreme characteristics and polar mannerisms, as the perfect person to tackle duality in this 90s classic.
Midlands Movies Mike