That's Nicolas Cage. He's starred in over fifty films, and has seven projects in various levels of production deep into 2011. He's also one of the most disrespected, criticized, laughed at, mocked, harassed, and derided men in Hollywood. Did I mention he gets made fun of? With such bad-mouthing you'd think he was Carlos Mencia. And that guy sucks.
Why is a man who has worked with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott, earning himself more money than you or I will ever dare to think of thinking about, considered such a bad actor? It's because Nicolas Cage is a very specific breed of actor who should star in very few movies.
For some reason or another Cage has been pegged as the go-to guy for adventure thrillers. He's forced to play the hero, and the every-man sort of hero we're all of us supposed to get behind. It's a very common archetype. There's a problem with this:
Time to play Good Cage, Bad Cage, where I'll explain why Cage is so good when he's good, and the worst person alive when he's bad.
In 1987 Nicolas Cage was given the honor of playing leading man H. I. McDunnough in Joel and Ethan Coen's sophomore film Raising Arizona. He played the hell out of it. He wasn't an anti-hero, but he wasn't someone worth rooting for. He was a dirty, fairly stupid hillbilly who just wanted to make his wife happy and raise a baby that wasn't his. Watch him escape the cops! He was off the wall, but he was adorable, and Raising Arizona shines as a beacon of hope to all those who would otherwise write Cage off. The amount of lunacy he exuded perfectly here would be his downfall in later years. Take, for instance, Gone in Sixty Seconds.
So now he's a car thief. A step down from Huggies. And is that Robert Duvall? Before this wasCon Air, and Face/Off, and although I've never seen those I've heard rumor they're terrible, and along with them Gone in Sixty Seconds was a good start to Cage's dangerously stupid run of career moves. Who makes a movie with Dominic "Swordfish" Sena? Watch him talk to his car and escape the cops! Seriously, what the hell is going on with everything in that scene? It isn't even so much his acting in this, but the fact that he was in this movie, that makes this such a Bad Cage. People think his hair is bad now? Anything is better than blonde. IncludingAdaptation.
Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman are so hardcore they decided to cram TWO Nicolas Cages into Adaptation. That's right, not only does Nicolas Cage play Charlie Kaufman, he plays his/Charlie's own twin, who doesn't actually exist in real life. Blows your mind. Watch him get pissy about film! See, the mark of a Good Cage isn't that he happens to stumble into a decent film, it's that he adds to the film's decency. Which he does here. What a Bad Cage does is either totally destroy a film, or simply fill the shoes that anyone else in the entire world could have filled. Like in Next, World Trade Center, Bangkok Dangerous, and National Treasure 1 and 2.
I think National Treasure is where Cage decided if crime thrillers weren't going to ruin his credibility fast enough it was time to give action adventure movies a chance. It worked wonders. Not only did Cage sell out to Disney, he also kind of took exactly the same role Tom Hanks would later in The DaVinci Code: guy knowledgeable about stuff getting involved in ridiculously dangerous adventures pertaining to their field of knowledge. I wish that was more succinct. Watch him become part of the scenery! He continues down this path in Next, World Trade Center and Bangkok Dangerous sort of, but what gets people really riled up about Cage is The Wicker Man.
So Bad It's Awesome Cage:
Okay, if someone hasn't seen The Wicker Man compilation now is the time to do it. Please, please, hold your applause. There isn't much to be said about The Wicker Man performance aside from this: fuh? I don't know if anyone knew what they were doing when they were working on this project, but if they did know what they were doing they were very mean people. And the same can probably be said for Ghost Rider.
Watch him try to play a superhero! Nicolas Cage doesn't get it. He shouldn't save people. He should just be. That's what he's best at. In Raising Arizona he was. In Adaptation he was. Twice. And he was, and very much so, in The Weather Man.
Why couldn't he play a superhero with a bow? Because when Cage is a leading man he should be an average person with minor problems, or an insane person, but he shouldn't be a brave and heroic person without any problems. It's too easy, and that ruins him. With The Weather Man Cage's character isn't even well liked. Watch him fail! He's weak and unconfident, his family sort of steps all over him, and he's awesome in it. Give him some problems and he'll work wonders. Just remember how badass he's going to be in Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Calls New Orleans.
My points here all add up to one thing: Nicolas Cage, when not playing a hero and when backed up by ample directing and writing, can and will give a great performance. For every Knowingand 8MM there is also an Adaptation lurking in the shadows. Plus I've heard nothing but good things on his role in the upcoming movie Kick-Ass, and he gets to work with Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet. I've got my fingers crossed for a solid Cage in both of those.
- Eric T. Voigt, Found Listening to The Knife While Watching Nicolas Cage Enjoyable