Thursday, November 12, 2015

Madadayo, Used DVD'S! - #11/12: Nic CAGE Edition: STOLEN & TRESPASS

Ok, let's get into it - Nicolas Cage.  And I don't mean Nicolas Cage as we know him and love him, for the performances that we love for innocent and guilty pleasures (Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona, Bringing Out the Dead, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, Adaptation are among the great performances by anyone in the past 30 years of cinema).  I mean of the Cage that does not give a flying fuck.  He's in it to pay off that island, and his huge-ass comic book collection, remember?  And little Kal can't subsist on government cheese for too long, you know? 

So, I think, around the time that The Wicker Man came out, we start to see Nicolas Cage get... weird, like Ghost Rider (which is still awesome) and Bangkok Dangerous (which is... eh).  And it also comes down to the generic action flicks especially, those he can get a quick paycheck and do... well, sometimes he DOES get to do 'Nic Cage' type of things.  But just how cagey depends on just how shitty the script can get.  But sadly, sometimes, the shittier the script doesn't always mean enjoyment, it means that it's just worthless, Syd-Field-wannabe type of stuff.  So let's get into two movies Cage acted in for Milennium Films a few years back - and both, by the way, for directors he worked with before.

In Simon West directed STOLEN, Cage plays a professional bank robber - as he's referred to more than one the BEST in the country (because, why not, it's Cage, I can buy he's the best).  After being given one small character quirk - like The Dude, of all things, he's gotta listen to his CCR, albeit here right before a job - he and Josh Lucas pull off a rather daring heist (the kind where it's a Silence of the Lambs sort of trick of 'oops, where the BIG law was going isn't where the thing is actually taking place), and attempt to amscray.  But Cage is double-crossed (or just, you know, left behind by his partners, including Malin Akerman and that guy who you see in other movies), and after one of those ridiculous-but-amusing-and-almost-plausible chases, he's put in prison for 8 years.

It would've been longer, but Cage didn't hold on to the money (as we see in a flashback, which I didn't entirely trust but is what happens for real it seems, he burns it all).  Cut to these eight years, Cage (sorry, his name's 'Will Montgomery', but can't I call him Cage, give me that much, life) is having trouble getting along with his daughter, who he hasn't seen since.  They don't have a good first meeting - bringing a stuffed animal, he went to the Liam Neeson Taken school, coincidentally enough - and she's taken away in a taxi... which is being DRIVEN BY HIS ORNERY FORMER PARTNER JOSH LUCAS!  Curses.  So, the 'get me my money or X dies' scenario comes about, and the screenwriter fits the FBI into it as well - there's gotta be more danger, doesn't there, and of course Danny Huston eight years later has nothing else to do in his division - so it's a race-against-time thing, with some rather shocking twists.

When I say shocking, don't get nervous and think this will have things that will actually shock your system.  Cage does get to have a few moments here and there of super-ragey-anger, and he gets to act hot and pissed and it's fun to see that.  Other times he just has his... concerned, determined face, which is more plain and generic and is what it is. 

In a way Josh Lucas, not unlike villain William Fictner in Drive Angry, gets to have the meatier role here as the former partner who has (get this) cut off a few of his fingers just so he would be marked for dead with another man's corpse(!)  He delivers a performance with wild, crazed eyes from the moment he's on screen, and I mean in the prologue where he is super-obssessed with GOLD that happens to be right next to the 10 mil that Will is out to get at the bank (don't worry, there's a little set-up/pay-off here).  Lucas didn't necessarily have to go into Manic-Killer-With-Metal-Leg mode, but it's certainly appreciated and gives Stolen some extra boost as far as being a guilty pleasure.

I think West as a director is actually capable of shooting and editing some decent action here, and there's some chases and car scenes and even suspense with the daughter locked in the taxi trunk trying to get out that work quite well.  The script is still, for lack of any better description, junk and the sort of thing that must have been through a shit-ton of drafts before getting approved once the star entered his 'I Need to Pay Off My Taxes' phase.  And yet I don't think Cage, or even co-star Danny Huston, are here completely wasted and show up to work.  They even have a couple of scenes together that feel like real acting.  Malin Akerman gets a little more wasted, but is there to basically serve halfway through for a really ludicrous, wait-how-can-this-be-oh-nevermind plot involving how Cage will get Lucas his millions. 

So, in short, if you got nothing else better to do, it's not too bad.  There's been worse Cage vehicles produced, albeit the titles weren't quite as generic and lame and... ok, let's get to it, you want an example?


Now we're talking full-blown garbage, folks.  This comes from 8MM director Joel Schumacher, and that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be a waste of time and effort, but the odds are not in its favor much as you'd like.  Perhaps the premise could seem promising given how Schumacher has a way with 'bottle' scenarios like his 2002 film Phone Booth.  Here we have Cage as a, uh, I don't remember his name, let's call him 'Business Man', who comes home one day in his Porsche (and you will know it because of the opening montage of Cage in ADR talking on a phone while driving), says hi to his wife (let's call her 'Business Wife') played by Nicole Kidman, and also has a Daughter (Liana Liberato).  Guys described as police come to their door - uh-oh, there's been burglaries in the area, let's let em in, of course - and they're criminals out to get Business Man's money. 

But wait, does he have any money?  Flashbacks tell us the diamonds are there (the criminals' POV I guess, we're supposed to take the movie's word, which doesn't mean jack shit, but I'll get to that).  Oh, and there's also some possible (maybe, yes, no, we'll see) romantic thing that happened with Kidman and one of the criminals, like Cam Gigandet, which is both easy to remember and easy to forget as a name.  Amidst this back-drop we see a sort of cat-and-mouse, 'Where's the money?!' scenario play itself out, over and over and over again. 

You know that scene from The Room where the Drug Dealer is on the roof asking Danny about his money?  It's that scene, but just over and over, with different threats - a needle with Magical Knock-Out/Kill Stuff, a killing the wife and/or the daughter, the latter by the way leaves and comes back before the criminals show up and then doesn't leave in time due to Stupid Screenwriter Reasons (yes, all in caps), and with Business Man coming up with different ways to try and thwart these bad dudes who seem to be WAY in over their heads.  Oh, and did I mention the twists?  Oh the twists come like a fucking pretzel factory, folks!

I went into this movie hoping for the best, I really did.  I tried to think that Schumacher could find a way to make this material really intense and get us to really like these main characters in the face of these ruthless thugs (one of them is a woman who just, uh, smokes crack and spends most of the time trying on Kidman's clothes and maybe will take the jewels but no they're just QVC crap, figures).  But I feel like I've seen so much of this scenario before even if I'd only seen one of these kind of Holding-Hostage-in-Home movies. 

I should make a Kidman-in-her-office-with-her-Agent joke, but it'd be too easy...
This is Firewall with Harrison Ford.  This is Panic Room, up to a point (though that's superior due to director and script if nothing else).  This is, uh, insert-title-here.  Though here the annoying thing is just how much writer Karl Gajdusek feels the need to keep adding contrivance on top of contrivance, things for the characters to do or little annoyances that just keep the story rolling and up to (barely) 90 minutes.  There's even a minimal amount of Security System customer service character who calls after the alarm gets set off for reasons I won't go into here - seemingly enough to give her motivation for her to come back later in the story - but nothing else happens.  At other times, characters can easily get away but then get caught again because, yeah, screenplay says now they get caught, or now the watch will go off.  I'm sick of this crap.

Cage is... not really that impressive, actually.  Not that the material helps him much, as he has to be on the defensive side of things and only once (or twice, at most) gets to really get FULL into yelling and getting manic, but it's more that thing of him trying to out-do the criminals' assholish type of talk.  The rest of the time he's tied up, denying or trying to recklessly tell the criminals things so they might, maybe, leave and not come back or something, and being beaten and then losing blood for one reason or another.  Kidman gets to act a little more - she gets some of the flashbacks with Gigandet - but is only marginally more convincing (by that I mean not much), and, as a nitpick but hey I noticed it so it does count, she slips in and out of her Aussie accent at odd times. 

This is the sort of material that doesn't even get points as a guilty pleasure.  Trespass is a slog of a bad movie, full of itself and thinking that it has more juicy character dynamics to work with, when it's really a script left out in the sun too long until every turn and twist and motivation has been sucked dry of moisture.  I'm surprised I was able to write about it so much here, as I'm not sure I'll remember much of it a month from now, or even in a week.

So yeah, in this Cage Cage match: Stolen wins.

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