WASHINGTON, April 4, 2014 – The currently not-so-brilliant career of onetime silver screen idol Nicolas Cage has been going steadily down the tubes now for what seems like ages already. His latest film, “Outcast,” apparently released to theaters in early February seems to have vanished without a trace.
Described by the New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis as a “Chinese-Canadian-French co-production, a wannabe epic rattling with swords and clichés,” this medieval sword and (maybe) sorcerer effort got a pathetic 7 percent rating on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.
Noted one intrepid Rotten Reviewer, “The movie’s only attribute is that it’s so bad it might benefit from a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style drubbing.” Too bad MSTK3000 was canceled by the leading-edge boobs at Comedy Central over a decade ago.
According to Variety, Cage is now involved with the latest Oliver Stone propaganda project, “Snowden,” an epic tale of the pathetic American sellout-turned-lefty-hero. Says Variety, “Cage will play the role of a former U.S. Intelligence Official in the thriller.” One is tempted to say, “How low can you go?”
But in this column, at least, we’d like to look back on Nic’s better days. Now 51, Cage has done much better work in the past. His career has derailed, we suspect, at least in part due to his epic mismanagement of his onetime film fortune, which has likely led him to take parts in any piece of garbage with a less than ideal script just to pay off his legion of creditors.
Sadly, today’s legion of critics and naysayers neglect to remember this talented American actor’s best work.
The versatile Cage, in fact, is best known for his wide range of roles in notable films such as “National Treasure,” “Face/Off,” and “Leaving Las Vegas,” the latter of which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor.
Cage was previously married to Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette and Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie. He is also nephew of legendary director Francis Coppola.
Now, without further ado, the List of Ten takes a look back at what we regard as Nicolas Cage’s Top Ten films.
10. City of Angels (1998) – This picturesque fantasy about supernatural romance, is derived from the German film “Wings of Desire,” whose story line is transposed from Berlin to Los Angeles. Cage plays an angel-in-waiting, moved by the sorrow of Meg Ryan, a surgeon whose loses a patient. He and his heavenly hosts are garbed in long coats and gather on the beach at sunset. It is a brooding and thoughtful film.
9. World Trade Center (2006) – This surprisingly good docudrama, directed by Oliver Stone, won rave reviews. Cage and Michael Peña play Port Authority cops who are among the last people rescued from the smoldering debris at Ground Zero.
8. Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) – In this witty and charming nuptial chase film, Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker play private detective Jack Singer and schoolteacher Betsy Nolan, who take a marriage trip to Las Vegas. Their marriage plans are sabotaged by a notorious gambler, Tommy Korman, played to the hilt by James Caan who finds Parker to be an irresistible double for his late wife. Caan lures Cage into a high-stakes poker game and inevitable complications ensue. Film locations range from New York City to Las Vegas to Hawaii.
7. Moonstruck (1987) – Cage stars as a sweet, doe-eyed opera lover in this old-fashioned romance that stars Cher in perhaps her best film performance. In this poignant, feel-good flick, Cher is married to Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). But after he flies off to visit his sick mother in Sicily, she falls for Johnny’s estranged younger brother, Ronny, earnestly played by Cage.
6. It Could Happen To You (1994) – In this delightful romantic comedy directed by Andrew Bergman, New York cop Nicolas Cage splits his winning lottery ticket with waitress Bridget Fonda, much to his wife Rosie Perez’s chagrin. Cage portrays the patient, passive spouse in a classic ethnic and temperamental mismatch with his Puerto Rican wife.
5. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) – You may find yourself tumbling into a state of profound depression as you watch Cage drain his umpteenth glass of alcohol in this fatalistic down-and-out odyssey, but his acting skills here are amazing to behold. Cage plays a disgraced, terminally alcoholic screenwriter named Ben, who has already lost his family to drink as well as being fired from a lucrative job before the movie even begins.
After scrounging enough money to finance his reduced personal needs, Ben abandons his Los Angeles stomping grounds and spends the last sad weeks of his ruined life in Vegas, drinking himself to death. This is a great film. But you likely won’t be able to bear watching it twice.
4. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) – Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner), who is newly separated from her TV pitchman husband (Nicholas Cage), is reluctant to attend her 25-year high school reunion in this bittersweet time-travel romance directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
The pair of actors apparently didn’t get on very well while making this film. In her 2008 book, Turner claimed that Cage was busted twice for DUI and once for stealing a dog. Cage responded by stating, “The reason why you’ve never seen a mugshot of me is because it does not exist.” He went on to win a libel suit against Turner in a London court.
3. Face/Off (1997) – In this suspense thriller directed by John Woo, John Travolta’s FBI agent Sean Archer is so determined to foil villain Castor Troy, played by Cage, that he acquires a facsimile of Troy’s appearance via plastic surgery when going undercover in a federal prison. While complex, the film is a real nail-biter.
2. Raising Arizona (1987) – Cage and Holly Hunter portray an odd, hillbilly couple longing to be parents in this cult-famous and quirky film directed by brothers Ethan and Joel Coen. Cage’s deadpan narration warms you to his character. He plays a convenience store robber named “Hi,” who’s married to prison warder Hunter (“Ed”). When the couple discovers they are unable to have children, they set out to kidnap a baby from the richest man in town whose wife has given birth to quintuplets. It’s a classic chase film involving a pair of escaped idiot convicts (John Goodman and William Forstythe) and a motor-bike riding bounty hunter from hell.
1. Red Rock West (1993) – This suspense thriller starring Cage, Dennis Hopper and Sherilyn Fenn, turned out to be one of the best noir films to come along in quite a while. In the nondescript ranching town of Red Rock, Wyoming, Cage is mistaken for a hit man arriving a week late for his assignment, and finds it tempting to take the money and run. But surprising romantic complications cause the plot to thicken.
This excellent film defied conventional marketing wisdom by enjoying theatrical success after having been shown on cable TV and released in stores as a rental. Directed by John Dahl, the film is exceptionally clever and witty. The audience identifies with Cage who portrays a well-meaning, resilient out-of-towner who finds himself stuck in a bleak, dead-end town surrounded by an unexpected nest of vipers.
We can still look forward, one supposes, to Cage’s upcoming turn in Oliver Stone’s predictably revisionist take on Snowden. According to Variety, “Open Road Films will release the film in the U.S. on December 25. Pathé will open France on December 30.” Hopefully, Cage will get enough of the gate from this one to pay off his creditors and get back to making real movies. Good luck, dude.
− Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: Associated Press, The Washington Times movie reviews, The Evening Standard (London), Variety.