I count myself as a Nicolas Cage fan, although I admit he has given more bad performances than almost any other actor that I like. But when Cage is one target, he is absolutely brilliant. The strange thing about Cage is whether he is good or bad, is that it always seems to be for the same reason – he throws himself into every role with gusto. But many of the movies he does are beneath his talent level, and at times instead of seeming daring, he just seems wildly over the top for no reason. When you walk in a Nicolas Cage movie, you never really know if you’re going to see one of the year’s best or worst. Either Cage has no skill at being able to tell what are good screenplays and what are bad ones, or else he’ll do just about anything they offer him. So this week, I decided to do a two part Weekly Top Ten – The Ten Worst, then the Ten Best, Nicolas Cage performances. First the worst – the best will follow later this week.
10. Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987)
This is probably the performance that most people would argue belongs on the other list. After all, Moonstruck was an Academy Award winning movie, and Cage’s performance was nominated for a Golden Globe and turned him from a little known actor into a star. But, I’m sorry, I hated Moonstruck. The whole thing rang false to me, and for a comedy, I didn’t really laugh. Cage went so wildly over the top it’s unbelievable. Every time I think of Moonstruck, I think of his ludicrious monologue about his hand. Dreadful.
9. Windtalkers (John Woo, 2002)
Cage isn’t really all that terrible in Windtalkers, but the movie probably should not have been made the way it was. Why, after all, is a movie about Native American code talkers in the Vietnam war being told from Cage’s point of view? As always, Cage goes too far over the top at times, and director John Woo lays everything on a little too thick – an excess of style that destroys the movie. Cage should have known better.
8. National Treasure/National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Jon Turteltaub, 2004/2007)
Both National Treasure movies are monuments of stupidity. They are The DaVinci Code for Dummies, and to me, The DaVinci Code itself was already The DaVinci Code for Dummies. The films are mindless drivl posing as intelligent, history based thrillers, but only an idiot could believe anything in them. Cage is stuck with the most perfunctory, plot specific dialogue of his career, and he still manages to mangle it and go over the top. Two films and Cage never delivers a single memorable line of dialogue, doesn't have a single human emotion. Shoot me if you see me buying a ticket to the eventual National Treasure 3.
7. Kiss of Death (Barbet Schroeder, 1995)
A supporting role, for a great director, is often a way for name actors like Cage to draw some critical acclaim. Unfortunately for Cage, he picked one of Barbet Schroeder’s worst films to do this in (it would be his worst, had he not made Desperate Measures a few years later). As a crazed mob boss, who bench presses prostitutes, Cage is so far over the top it can no longer be seen anymore. He is a bundle of ticks and nerves, without any real sense of purpose. He is adrift in his own eccentricity.
6. Ghost Rider (Mark Steven Johnson, 2007)
Ghost Rider probably works pretty well as a comic book, where the idea of a dude with a flaming skull collecting souls for Satan admittedly sounds pretty cool. But when seen on the big screen, it just looks retarded. And the role, of daredevil motor cycle rider during the day, and hell raising skeleton at night, gives Cage the opportunity to give into his worst tendencies for over the top theatrics. Glad it didn’t make enough to warrant a sequel.
5. Bangkok Dangerous (Danny & Oxide Pang, 2008)
Perhaps the only performance on this list that you could describe as “boring”. Normally when Cage is bad, it’s because he’s left his sanity behind and gone so far into playing his ridiculous character that he no longer resembles a human being. But in Bangkok Dangerous, a pretentious action movie about a hitman who wants out, Cage appears to be almost comatose for the whole movie. Even when Cage is terrible, he’s usually terrible in a somewhat entertaining, “I can’t believe he just fucking did that” kind of way. Here, he practically puts you sleep.
4. Next (Lee Tamorhori, 2007)
Poor Philip K. Dick. One of the best sci-fi writers in history, he has had many of his best works completely warped and destroyed by big budget movies. Such is the case with Next, where Cage plays a man who can see into the future – but only his future, and only two minutes ahead. But then Cage gets a vision of something further in the future, and goes running around Los Angeles like a maniac. Even worse, he has to convince us that he’s in love with Jessica Biel, who is a complete and utter blank slate in the movie. He is unsuccessful.
3. Gone in 60 Seconds (Dominic Sena, 2000)
A preposterious action movie, where Cage and company have to steal 50 cars in a single night, Cage delivers a performance that is enitrity unbelievable and completely devoid of any recognizable human characteristics. When I think of this movie, it’s always that scene where Cage is mentally preparing himself for the day ahead by shaking his hands around his head. Or his terrible chemistry with Angelina Jolie. But I try not to think of this movie.
2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (John Madden, 2001)
Good God, does this movie ever suck! I mean, I may not have been the biggest fan of Shakespeare in Love, but that film was a well directed little film by John Madden. How he followed it up with this terrible romantic drama, with Cage as a soldier who falls in love with Penelope Cruz (during the period where she was terrible in every film in the English language), I’ll never know. Cage is a smiling buffoon in the film, and he has zero chemistry with Cruz. The film is painfully long and dull.
1. The Wicker Man (Neil LaBute, 2006)
I am really not sure how LaBute and Cage messed this movie so terribly badly. An amazing British horror film from the 1970s, because the strangest, stupidest, most pointless American horror film of the 2000s. I will always remember Cage’s phony scream in this movie as he’s being tortured, and how utterly miserable and ridiculous he looked in that fucking bear suit. Truly Cage’s worst performance by a mile.