Regardless of your person feelings for Hollywood’s greatest living maverick, everyone has a favorite Nicolas Cage performance be it Oscar’s worthy, an apocalyptic screech-fest or two hours of near-mute staring. There’s such a varied choice too as the this beloved thespian of chaos has been plying his deranged trade for decades that’s contained (but certainly not limited to) such tour de forces like the fried, thousand yard stare of H.I. McDunnough from the Coen’s Raising Arizona, the cackling, bullet-spraying Castor Troy from John Woo’s Face/Off and even the bottomless rage of damaged lumberjack Red in Panos Cosatos’ hellish fever dream Mandy.
Well now we have yet another unhinged performance to add to his pantheon of maniacs, but it could be the most Nicolas Cage role Nicolas Cage has ever attempted – that, of actor Nic Cage.
His star finally on the decline, Nic Cage is experiencing a general malaise in his live that’s leaving him feeling terminally unfulfilled. The result of his divorce, coupled with his insatiable desire to be always be the centre of attention, has left his relationship with his daughter incredibly strained and his career has plateaued as he hasn’t had a major film role in years. Worse yet, his anxiety has taken the form of a vision named “Nicky”, a grotesque parody of his younger self who constantly berates him whenever he has the temerity to describe himself as an actor (“You’re a fucking movie star, don’t you forget this!”) and his agent keeps reminding him that his financial situation is hardly rosy.
However, when his latest attempt to bag a juicy role fails during to his natural over-exuberance, a light appears on the horizon in the form of a payday of a cool $1 million if he makes an appearance at the birthday party of the obscenely wealthy mega-fan Javi Gutierrez and Cage finds it impossible to refuse.
Upon arriving at Javi’s island compound, things start off as predictably awkward as you’d expect, but soon the two spark up quite the sizable bond as they begin to collaborate on a script. This would all be perfect if not for one, glaring problem and that’s the fact that Nic has approached by a couple of CIA agents who break the news that not only is Javi is a prominent arms dealer, but they suspect him being the mastermind behind the kidnapping of the daughter of a local politician and the try to recruit the sceptical actor to spy on his brand new buddy for them for much needed intel.
As the elements of high farce take a firm hold, events gradually spiral out of control as Cage’s ego, loyalty and love for his family all battle for control among the car crashes and half-assed espionage.
Simply put, The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent may be the ultimate Nicolas Cage movie thanks to a script that shamelessly plunders the actors entire back catalogue to rapidly fire off countless in-jokes and references to what I guess we’ll now refer to as the Cage-verse. No stone is left unturned as the movie relentlessly riffs of such things as movie props – a lot is made of Javi’s shrine to Cage which contain the golden guns salvaged from the set of Face/Off, the poison gas canisters from The Rock and the variety of murder-weapons from Mandy – and aspects from Cage’s own history – in a genius move, “Nicky” takes the form of the front flipping, leather jacket, karate kicking version of the actor who appeared on an episode of 80’s English chat show called Wogan – and blends them into a endearingly wonky comedy thriller that acts as a genuinely sweet encapsulation of one man’s legendary output.
Not everything works, but the parts of Unbearable Weight end up being greater than the whole. While the events of the movie ultimately end up mirroring the script concepts that Cage and Javi band about while extremely high on LSD and go from a talky comedy to a more preposterous Hollywood thriller, the actual in-movie switch is noticably clumsy and while certainly witty, the movie isn’t as full on weird at blurring the reality of Hollywood actors as, say, Being John Malkovich. However, while the bang-crash finale may fall short of of the promise of amusingly mirroring Cage’s actual progression from indie movies to mincing around in front of John Travolta while a plane explodes, what makes the film work is the predictably unpredictable performance of it’s lead actor and the adorable double act he forges with Pedro Pascal’s doe-eyed superfan. The one-time Mandolorian ends up being the perfect, sidekick, with his endless, rose-tinted reverence for his famous actor sparking well as the overwhelming boundless enthusiasm slowly rouses Cage out of his existential slump as it jump starts his ego like a flat battery. In fact the random, goofy shit the two get up to while their bromance blossoms proves to be the movie’s backbone and the smaller, more nuanced stuff is far entertaining that the broader, thriller-y stuff that comes later that involves screeching cars and botched hostage situations, but that’s not to say that any of the bigger jokes don’t land. Cage’s disastrous first attempt at spying results in him accidently tranquilizing himself and having to negotiate climbing out onto a wind still to avoid detection as his CIA handlers freak out and his performance while his imaginary, younger self harkens back to the rage-Cage we all love with the “You tell em Nic Cage smooches good!” moment ranking incredibly highly on the actor’s weird-shit-o-meter.
While you distinctly get the feeling that The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent isn’t maybe quite as batshit or outright hilarious as you’d probably hoped, it does still boast a healthy hit rate of jokes and with a clutch of references from everything from Con Air to Guarding Tess to, yes, The Wicker Man, it proves to be a fitting encapsulation of a career that, like the man, defies easy categorisation.
More of a dependable “gosh” than a wild-eyed “WOOOO“, The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent still conclusively proves that Nic Cage is undoubtedly back – not that he went anywhere…