Let’s talk cult actors and Nicolas Cage.
Now wait… before you curse me and sling your iPad or Kindle Fire or XDNA Aurum 24K Gaming PC across the room, remember—this guy has been nominated for Academy Awards twice and he actually won the Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas. He should have won another for Best Supporting Actor in Moonstruck, but the nominees that year were Sean Connery, Albert Brooks, Morgan Freeman, Vincent Gardenia, and Denzel Washington. Tough competition.
Personally, I’ll watch a new Nic Cage movie just to see what he’s done to his hair since the last Nic Cage movie, but whether you like him or not, you should admit that the guy can act. His problem is that he needs to work too much. If you’ve got the money and you want Nicolas Cage in your movie, just say the word and he’s there. Scripts evidently mean nothing to him—he just needs to work. I like what Ethan Hawke said about him: “…he’s put a little too much water in his beer… but if I could erase his bottom half bad movies and only keep his top half, he would blow everyone else out of the water.”
So let’s see what Netflix has to offer for a Nic Cage binge weekend.
Trespass (2011). This is a good one, no kidding. And the other Nic is in it, too—Nicole Kidman–infinitely easier on the eyes than Nic Cage. The two Nics are living the high life (he’s a diamond broker, she’s just eye candy) when four guys crash their party, home-invasion-style. The crooks want cash and diamonds; what they get is trouble. The storyline is all over the place, but it’s an exciting piece of escapism with a lot of back plot. Easily worth 90 minutes.
Lord of War (2005). Nic is an arms dealer in this thriller and it’s a pretty good film. His character, Yuri Orlov, started small, selling guns to hit men and thugs in his local neighborhood and became a shooting star in the business. When he partners up with an African warlord and the warlord’s lunatic son, he’s at the top of his game, but his conscience starts tugging at him—along with an FBI agent played by Ethan Hawke. This one will surprise you. It’s a pleasant reminder that old Nic really can act when he wants to.
Left Behind (2014). This movie got a bad rap because of the biblical tale it’s based on. Apparently, there are adults living among us who believe that at some point, they’re going to be instantly zapped up to heaven leaving the rest of us here. That suits me just fine because I like it here. Now, if you can suspend disbelief for The Omen or The Exorcist, I supposed you could suspend it for Left Behind, but you’d be wasting a lot of effort when you could just sit back and laugh yourself sick at the cheesy special effects, the idiotic characters, the cliché dialog, and Nicolas Cage’s performance. He plays an airline pilot. And where is he when “The Rapture” takes place? You guessed it—45,000 feet and climbing. Don’t be mistaken—this film’s producers are trying to convert you. That goofy little shit Kirk Cameron couldn’t do it in the 2000 version of Left Behind, so they decided to give Nic Cage a shot.
The Runner (2015). A good, solid character piece. No explosions or gunfights, just an interesting movie. Nic plays a Louisiana politician who gets caught up in scandal after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Hardly anyone gave this picture a chance—they just figured “Oh, another Nic Cage action flick…” but you can really sink your teeth into this one and you get great performances all around, not just from Nic, but from Peter Fonda, Sarah Paulson, and Connie Nielsen.
Stolen (2012). One of my favorite Nic Cage “B” movie action films. Nic plays a thief who steals $10M with three other guys. As they’re making their getaway, Nic gets left behind with the money. As the cops close in, he burns the money to get rid of the evidence—didn’t do him any good and he still serves eight years in prison. Once he gets out, he goes to see his daughter and when she leaves to get them some ice cream or something, she’s kidnapped by one of the original crooks who got away. This guy thinks Nic still has the $10M and if he doesn’t come up with it in 12 hours, his daughter bites the big one. Sure, it’s been done before; sure, it’s predictable. But it’s fun.
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000). Our main man is a retired master car thief named Memphis Raines (that’s the name I give the barista at Starbucks) and he and his old gang have to steal 50 cars in one night or the bad guys will kill his brother. This is supposedly the “movie that ended Nicolas Cage’s career,” but that was 16 years ago and he’s still going strong. If you like cars, you’ll like this film. If you like cars and Nic Cage, you’re in for a treat. He steals Ferraris, BMW’s, and a freaking 1967 Shelby GT500 Mustang. Whew.
Next (2007). This has got one of the most original plotlines ever in a Nicolas Cage movie. Nic plays Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician who can see a few minutes into the future. Not days, weeks, or years—just a few minutes. And a few minutes is really all you need to do very well at the gambling tables. The thing is, when a terrorist group threatens to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles and an FBI agent (Julianne Moore) knows you can see a few minutes into the future… well… it’s good.
Outcast (2014). This is the only film in this article I had to watch to write it because it’s the only one I hadn’t seen already. And Nic’s not even the star. He’s third banana to Hayden Christensen and some guy I’ve never heard of. Twenty minutes in, I knew I should have left it off the list. Pass it by. Don’t even wave.
The Weather Man (2005). Another character piece but this one is actually a dark, dark comedy. Nic plays a local weatherman in Chicago and his job rakes in quite a bit of cash, but as you can imagine, being a weatherman is like being the guy who drives the Zamboni around the rink after the hockey game is over. To top it off, his ex-wife hates him, his kids treat him like he’s the mailman, and his father (a Pulitzer Prize winning author) thinks he’s a failure. You’ve got to see what Nic does with this character. It’s priceless.
Rage (2014). Nic Cage is especially good in these revenge roles. In this one, he plays Paul Maguire, a small-time crook who has gone straight, opened a construction business, and has a wonderful family life. (Gone straight—in the construction business?) One evening while he and his wife are out to dinner, kidnappers break into his home and kidnap his daughter. She’s found dead in a storm drain and Nic goes berserk. He rounds up his old gang and they go off to get revenge against an old enemy—the mob boss he stole from years ago. So it’s not The Godfather, Part II but it beats that Liam Neesen piece of shit, Taken 3, any day of the week.
Snake Eyes (1998). Four names: Nic Cage, Brian DePalma, Gary Sinese, and John Heard. How can you go wrong with this? Now if I were to give you a complete plot synopsis, we’d be here all day. Or at least I would–you could just skip over it. So I’ll make this quick: Nic is a crooked police detective and while he’s at a boxing match in an Atlantic City casino, he accidentally discovers a conspiracy to kill the Secretary of Defense. Trust me—I know it sounds stupid—just put your faith in those four names and you won’t be disappointed.
Pay the Ghost (2015). Guess what? Another one of Nic Cage’s screen kids has been kidnapped! But this time, instead of a thriller, shoot ‘em up, revenge sort of film, it’s a horror movie. And it’s got everything you’d want, too. Witches, a monster, ghosts, demonic possession, psychics… and Halloween!! Don’t over-think it, just watch it.
Kiss of Death (1995). This is another one where Nic’s not center stage, but manages to prove he’s a pretty good supporting actor. Carrot Top David Caruso takes top billing here and Samuel L. Jackson’s underneath him. Nic plays the bad guy in this thriller and he plays it completely over-the-top which is pretty much what you have to do if you’re playing opposite Bozo’s David Caruso’s usual New York Irishman wannabe tough guy. It’s a good movie. Give it a try.
Seeking Justice (2011). Nic is a high school English teacher in New Orleans which has got to be tough since they don’t speak English in New Orleans. They try, but it’s never sounded like English to me. One night, his wife is brutally assaulted and while he’s tending to her in the hospital, a stranger shows up and tells him that his “organization” can get justice for the assault. All they want in return is a favor sometime in the future. Nic agrees and his wife’s assailant is toast. In six months, the stranger returns to collect his favor—Nic has to kill a pedophile… who turns out to be a journalist investigating the vigilante organization. This is a combination of Clint Eastwood’s Magnum Force and Charles Bronson’s Death Wish—and it’s very well done.
Keep in mind that this isn’t even close to being a full list of Nicolas Cage’s movies, but these are all streaming now on Netflix. I have to give credit where credit is due—they’ve got a very good sampling here. In fact, if it rains this weekend and my wife stays upstairs watching Downton Abbey, I might stay in the office and indulge in a Nic Cage binge watch myself. I might do it even if it doesn’t rain. Going out in public doesn’t always bode well for me, but Nicolas Cage never disappoints.
Don Gillette is a novelist from Nashville, Tennessee whose wife hates Nicolas Cage. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction and is available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers along with his other novels, journals, and anthologies.