In Defense Of Nicolas Cage
I feel compelled to write this article as this very website posted a piece not too long ago entitled “The Worst Movies Of 2012”. Ghost Rider 2 featured highly on this list and the Ghost Rider himself Nicolas Cage was lambasted and berated for his performance and acting skills in general. I have seen Ghost Rider 2 three times and enjoyed the film very much for what it was; ridiculous, entertaining fun. Then, I am a big Nicolas Cage fan. It feels almost shameful admitting that and when I have brought up the subject of The Cage in conversation I have been derided and ridiculed. I must note that unlike some fans of some bad action stars such as Steven Segal, JCVD or even Jason Statham, I do not like The Cage Man in an ironic way. I don’t watch his performances to mock him or the films, I genuinely think he is a brilliant actor and is easily in my top 5 of all time.
The man’s won an Oscar and been nominated numerous times; this is not a bad actor. Sure, some of his performances in the past few years have been wooden, sure he’s picked some bad projects and made a lot of straight to DVD films but were any of them actually THAT bad? No. I have watched them all. Mediocre? Yes. Unoriginal? Yes, but never truly bad. Even The Wicker Man remake has its hilarious redeeming moments (“The bees! The bees!”).
The problem I think that Cage has is that, although at heart a quirky character actor, at some point in the 90s he got mislabelled as a Bruce Willis-style action star. So now he’s spent the last 10 years or so making mediocre action films, where he looks uncomfortable and out of his depth. In the few films he’s made in recent times where he isn’t blowing things up or driving really fast he has shined; Bad Lieutenant, Adaptation, Lord Of War, The Weatherman, Matchstick Men, Bringing Out The Dead, The Family Man etc. These films are all reminders of the fact that given the opportunity Cage can be awesome. Anyone who has seen Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant Adaptation must surely agree that the man deserved an Oscar; outshining and out-acting Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep whilst playing two opposing characters. He plays Kaufman as an overweight, sweaty and balding neurotic, considering a couple of years before this he was a muscular hero starring in Jerry Bruckheimer action films this role is particularly impressive.
This fad of criticizing Cage is starting to wear thin. There are far, far worse actors out there making much, much worse films (Ashton Kutcher anyone?). Considering his filmography you would have to agree that anyone who was in Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas, The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, Lord Of War, Adaptation, Bringing Out The Dead, Kick-Ass & Bad Lieutenant has had a pretty decent career.
Hollywood and fans alike seem to shun people with crazy or unorthodox acting styles. People like De Niro and Daniel Day Lewis are praised for their method acting but Cage is labelled as weird or crazy for his self styled “nouveau shamanic” approach. Actors with similar styles and approaches are also shunned and also happen to be some of my favourites like Michael Keaton or Jeff Goldblum, neither of whom have worked in years. Cage has been labelled wooden or dull by his critics and this could be said for a few of his performances as he veers wildly from unemotional calm to brilliant charismatic, quirky characters to over the top, bombastic performances. Anyone who labels Nic as dull clearly hasn’t seen Vampire’s Kiss; a film which is completely saved by his ridiculous comic performance. He may be known for his lesser action roles but this is an actor who can comfortably take on any genre, comedy, indie, drama, romance, superhero, sci-fi. It would seem at the minute he takes any role that’s offered to him (8 films planned in for 2013 according to IMDB) but he’s an actor who’s not afraid to challenge himself and take any role, despite budget, genre or director.
The man was on top of the A-list in the 90s and rightly so. Critics and audiences loved him. The mistake he made was to be typecast as an action star. After he won his Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas he went on to make 3 blockbuster action films in a row and they were all really good and well received. The problem is in The Rock he plays a scientist unwillingly brought into help situation. In Face/Off he plays a wild eyed and eccentric crime boss (brilliantly I might add and probably his best roll in a blockbuster movie) and Con Air is almost a spoof or parody of the action films of the time. It’s more of a comedy than a straight action film and Cage’s performance reflects that; the ridiculous hair, accent and dirty vest in-joke. All these roles were suited to him and fit with his style. Nowadays he seems to be taking the roles that Steven Segal turns down. He was barely convincing as an action star at his peak; 15 years later he’s no more convincing. He still gets decent roles every few years but he doesn’t help himself by taking mediocre “pay check” movies.
I love Nicolas Cage. I genuinely think he is one of the best actors of his generation. Had he been in a position to turn down a few more roles his reputation might reflect that. However, even his more disappointing choices are still worth watching because the man exudes charisma, cool and unhinged eccentricity. He is a one-off, unique and interesting performer and as long as he’s still making movies I will be watching them.