What is it with Nicolas Cage? At once potentially one of the finest actors on the planet, he also stars in so much dross it’s almost impossible to believe. For the former bit, for anyone who scoffs at his name, in the mid-1990s Cage was thought of as arguably the best actor of his generation. Having wrapped up an Oscar in 1996 for his astonishing performance in Leaving Las Vegas, he then had a bit of a weird career shift that rumbles to this day. What’s going on!? We’re here to deconstruct the Cage.
The Good Cage
Right, so what are some great Nicolas Cage films? Well, for a start there’s Leaving Las Vegas. This is a challenging film about mental health, with Cage’s witty and successful Ben Sanderson on a suicidal drive to drink himself to death. We don’t find out why this is the case, it’s merely hinted his wife has left him with their son. And… well, Cage is astonishing in it.
Similarly, he’s excellent in Adaptation. But wait, there’s more! Alongside his ’80s turns in quirky projects such as Birdy (1984) and the Coen brother’s Raising Arizona (1987), he was in the excellent Lord of War (2005), underrated The Weather Man (also 2005), and another excellent forgotten gem Matchstick Men (2003 – one of Ridley Scott’s lesser known films).
Amongst the many, MANY films he’s starred in since 2000, some of the highlights include a highly amusing turn in Kick Ass (2010), a serious performance in Joe (2014), and an utterly off the wall, insane outing in the high-concept film Mom and Dad (2017). Now, any actor will have ups and downs with their project decisions, but is there any reasoning behind what Cage’s agent offers the man? Let us consider…
The Bad Cage
Now, apparently Cage has quite an extravagant lifestyle – he owns many multi-million dollar properties and often blows a lot of his money on strange purchases. This includes an authentic T. Rex skull and, being a big Elvis fan (to the extent he married Evlis’ daughter – Lisa Marie Presley) he’s picked up a lot of expensive memorabilia. He often funds some of these decisions with dodgy roles, such as Left Behind (2014), a bizarre film that, nonetheless, earned him a cool $4 million for a few days work.
We also have to the mention the ill-conceived 2006 remake of British horror classic the Wicker Man. With a script that simply follows the exact same outline as the Ed Wood original, but with a load of inane guff leading up to the ending. Seemingly in an attempt to give it his all regardless, we end up with a compellingly odd performance from Cage, who spends his time running around the island with an admittedly excellent hair cut. But all the while screaming at, and occasionally punching, brainwashed locals.
To his credit, Cage can poke fun at himself. He’s even said in interviews he doesn’t care what people think of his films – he just enjoys the work. He recently suggested he was considering retiring, but when you look at his upcoming filmography there are about 10 projects he has in the works… so, presumably that retirement is post-2020. Or he’ll just change his mind at a later date, like the endearingly eccentric sort he is.
One of his latest films, incidentally, is the above – Mandy. It’s earned rave reviews and is already hailed as one of the best films of 2018. So, Mr. Cage more than has it in him to still deliver the goods. We just hope he turns his attention to better projects in future so we get to see more of his excellent acting chops.