Nicholas Cage is Mr Hit and Miss.
Undeniably talented, here’s an actor who took the movie road less travelled, sometimes reaching incredible heights (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Rumble Fish, Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, Red Rock West) and at other times, descending into troughs of absolute shite (Vampire’s Kiss, Fire Birds, Amos and Andy, It Could Happen to You, Kiss of Death). He’s Johnny Depp without the strike rate…or the cheek bones.
Then, in 1995, as if out of nowhere, all the dots on the stencil of Nic’s career seemed to connect to form one point, and he solidified his position as one of the most exciting and standout actors of his generation by playing Ben Sanderson in Leaving Las Vegas. LLV is a brutal, beautiful and shocking story about a man that literally drinks himself to death. Deservedly, Nicholas Cage took home the Oscar for Best Actor that year.
At the pinnacle of his career Nic faced the difficult post-Oscar script choice. Obviously, the role he chose had to be something challenging. Something that would make him rise to the occasion. Something that would convert the naysayers once and for all.
And that script was…The Rock.
The Rock was directed by Michael (Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbour) Bay. Anyone who’s listened to the Team America soundtrack will know how much Michael Bay sucks. He’s a paint-by-numbers director who loves set pieces and seems to have a fetish for slow motion water sequences involving guns. I don’t like him – and yet I’ve seen all his movies and own most of them on DVD. This is the problem with Michael Bay: his films appeal to the lowest common denominator and are box office gold. They’re extended popcorn MTV film clips that are easy to swallow.
At first I thought that Nic’s choice of The Rock was calculated. It was the furthest away from an indie movie you could get. Maybe, I thought, it’s just Nic giving another two fingers up to the powers that be. A sort of ‘And now for my next trick…’ Maybe he was just diverting attention from himself, getting ready to score another slam dunk in a movie that would further test his theatrical dexterity.
But then he just kept doing it.
After The Rock came Con Air. Followed by Face/Off and City of Angels. Then 1999’s disappointing 8mm. Then later another visit to the world of action in 2000 with Gone in 60 Seconds (an apt title for Nic’s post 1995 career).
But maybe I’m being a wee bit harsh. Nic is good in a lot of those movies. Sometimes he’s better than just good. He’s a live-wire performer – and has a penchant for over-the-top improvisation. He seems to lap up his roles and is at his best playing the extroverted, complex villain who’s a six-pack-shy-of-a-full-case.
In 2002, seven years after his Oscar win; Cage’s redemption finally arrived in the guise of Adaptation. But, even now, his career arc still looks like the EKG chart of a bloke who’s had a triple by-pass. Following Adaptation was National Treasure. Then there was another high point with the darkly cool Bad Lieutenant and superhero dopeness of Kick-Ass. But, then he did The Sorcere’s Apprentice.
Like I said, Nicholas Cage is Mr Hit and Miss.