Why Does Nic Cage do these films?
The screening room was packed for this one. That was a bit of a surprise, given director Joel Schumacher’s checkered past. The director sandwiched his two Batman atrocities in between the Berlin Golden Bear nominated “8MM” and the Cannes nominated “Falling Down.”Maybe it was because of these glints of gold that the press filled the room. They came to see Nick Cage and Nichole Kidman in what appeared to be a tightly wound and sensual psychological thriller.
The most frequent discussion heard after the film was whether it was bad enough to be good. There was even some talk that the film might be an intentional satire of a psycho thriller flick, daring the audience to get the joke.
In either event, this film does not make the grade. It is not quite bad enough to be good and if it is a parody of mind-bending slasher films, that subtle humor is clubbed to death by the screenplay.
The film starts off great, with successful wheeler and dealer Cage rolling up to his mansion and closing a deal for a million dollar diamond. Nick fills the screen with his cocky, sleazy self, the king of cavalier. Even in a bad film, he is still pretty good. He exudes that marvelous sense of gleeful evil that he radiated in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans,” “Face / Off” and “Gone in Sixty Seconds."
The crowd is prepped for something good, here. Rich, successful hustler Kyle (Cage) is backing up and talking big time trash about a big time diamond deal. This means trouble for sure, and nobody lives trouble on the screen better than Nick Cage does.
Then, the screen cuts to his spoiled sixteen-year-old daughter Avery (Liana Liberato) having the most pathetic fight ever filmed with Kyle’s cute suburban housewife Sarah (Nicole Kidman). The air goes out of the theatre like a cake falling in the oven.
It is at that point that the audience gets the awful truth. They are condemned to listen for the next eighty minutes to what may be the worst screenplay ever uttered by two actors with five Oscar nominations and two wins between them.
When Kyle disarms the security system to let in the fake cops, 5-year-old kids in the audience will scream out, along with everyone else, what an unbelievably dumb thing that is to do. A little imagination would have gone a long way at that point, but, in the end, the screenplay dooms the film.
The plot becomes more unbelievable, the threats more stale and repeated, and the characters less interesting. For the last twenty minutes, the audience simply wants the film to be over.
Back to the plot. Just as Kyle finishes demonstrating one of the coolest safes in the world, the one he uses to store his diamonds, he purposely disables his state-of-the-art home security system and lets in three slobbering hoodlums. And then, guess what? The hoodlums take him, his wife and his daughter hostage and threaten to kill them unless Kyle opens the safe.
This is conducted with non-stop hysterical screaming that varies hardly a whit in pitch or volume. It is brainlessly loud and frantic from start to miserable, tedious, hackneyed finish.
None of the actors, including each of the three slobbering hoodlums, does or says anything that would be remotely associated with their characters. As the heist gets more and more botched, and bloodier and bloodier, the hoods start cracking up. It would have been so easy to have them crack up in a “Dog Day Afternoon” way or perhaps in a “Departed” way, however, that is not in the cards. As they crack up, they get dumber and they get less intense.
For the last fifteen minutes the audience is praying for the last shot to be fired and for the credits to role.
The responsibility for the failure of this film falls 50% on screenwriter Karl Gajdusek and 50% on the actors who agreed to be a part of it. It is hard to imagine the demographic that will get off on this combination of flaccid slasher violence and almost entirely unemotive lines.
The unequivocal advice for Cage and Kidman lovers is to rent a DVD of anything they have done previously and watch it at home before you spend 91 minutes taking in this terrible waste of their time.
Emerging actors Cam Gigandet and Liana Liberato did not get a fair shake with this film. This will be one they wish the public would forget for years to come.
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Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Karl Gajdusek
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman and Cam Gigandet
Release Date: October 14, 2011
MPAA: Rated R for violence and terror, pervasive language and some brief drug use
Running Time: 91 Minutes