Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage.
There’s something quite unsettling about that sentence, isn’t there? Nowadays, mention the name and the God awful remake of The Wicker Man comes to mind, or terrible comic book films, or terrible films in general. But there was a time when Cage wasn’t a lunatic, and his films were pretty decent. Let’s take a look at some of the best.
Before we start, there are two films which I haven’t seen yet but are fan favourites and should be mentioned: Lord of War, featuring Jared Leto, and The Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona. If you haven’t seen them, check them out, that’s what I’ll be doing!
The most recent film on this list, and the only Cage comic book movie that doesn’t suck, is the hilarious, emotional, high octane action film that is Kick-Ass. Nerdy Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) becomes an internet sensation when a video of him dressed as a superhero alter ego Kick-Ass goes viral, and he soon becomes an accepted hero. But he finds himself way out of his depth when he meets Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), two heroes who are far more equipped and far more qualified for the job. In addition, he soon becomes the target of mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), and things get out of hand for the teenage hero. Cage’s Big Daddy, who looks like a lot like Batman and speaks like Adam West, is perhaps the best character in the film. He’s funny, cheesy, and his chemistry with Chloe Moretz is fantastic. The film itself is one of the best in recent years, and is well loved amongst fans of the comic book.
Con Air is a film that everybody needs to see, but it’s hard to describe why. Sure, it’s fucking awesome, but you can say that about most films, why does it fit this film even better? Con Air is a masterpiece in the cheesy action film genre and it needs to be seen to be believed. Following a bar fight, former Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Cage) is arrested, and eight years later released on parole. He boards a flight to Alabama on a prison transport plane, eager to see his wife and daughter. However, the flight is taken over by Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich) and other criminals, and it’s up to Poe to stop them and make sure the plane lands safely in Alabama to see his family. Con Air is just an epic thrill ride from start to finish. The performances are silly and over the top, especially Malkovich’s, and sometime really creepy, like Steve Buscemi’s serial killer Garland Greene. Give it ago, and you may find it ends up being one of the best action film experiences of your life.
Time for a masterpiece now, and the film that garnered Cage his second Oscar nomination, although that should’ve been a second Oscar win. Cage plays a famous screen writer Charlie Kaufman, tasked with adapting a book written by author Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her experiences with horticulturalist John Laroche (Chris Cooper), and developing a serious case of writer’s block, whilst his identical twin Donald constantly exceeds at screen writing despite being new to it. The film is semi biographical, as Kaufman did in his real life struggle with adapting The Orchid Thief. The writing is outstanding, as someone who has tried to write a script before, I can confirm some of the things that run through Charlie’s head as he tries to write are things I have said to myself. All the performances are magnificent, with Chris Cooper picking up an Oscar for his, though I wish I could say the same for Cage.
Talking of action films, here’s another 90s hit with a little bit of brains to it. Sean Archer (John Travolta) is an FBI agent who has dedicated his life to hunting down terrorist Caster Troy (Cage), following the assassination of his son at Troy’s hands. He manages to take out Troy in one final fight, but just when it all seems over, the FBI introduce him to their plan of switching his face with Troy’s so that he may go to prison and seek information from the terrorist’s younger brother. Following the procedure, Troy wakes up faceless, and forces the surgeon to attach Archer’s face to his. As Archer seeks out information, Troy gradually ruins his enemy’s life at home in this immensely smart crime thriller. Credit to both Travolta and Cage for managing to play their characters so differently, and making it so convincing. The film has some heart pounding action, even if it is a tad too long, and it perhaps one of the best action films of the 90s.
It’s hard to tell you that you NEED to watch this film considering how utterly depressing it is, but Leaving Las Vegas is nothing short of a masterpiece. Cage plays Ben Stone, an alcoholic screen writer who moves to Las Vegas in order to drink himself to death, forms a bond with a prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). The pair make an agreement: Ben will spend his final days living with and maintaining a relationship with Shue, on the grounds that she cannot ask him to stop drinking, and he cannot be critical of her profession. And as you can imagine, the pair struggle to keep this relationship afloat. This is a beautiful film, full of moments filled with utter emotions. Not just sadness, but sometimes even extreme happiness, such as the scenes in which they go on vacation. It’s happy and depressing at the same time, but on the whole, the film will probably drain you of any good feelings. But it’s worth it just to play witness to Cage’s majestic, Oscar winning performance, as he perfectly encapsulates the role of a broken man.
What Do You Think?
What are your favourites Cage films? Any guilty pleasures?
Let us know in the comments!
Joe is out in cinemas now.