It’s no secret that there’s a direct correlation between my return to Flicks and the increase in our holding of Nicolas Cage movies. And while it’s almost impossible to come into the store these days without having some sort of Cage related conversation, I can admit that not all of the films he stars in are actually any good (though I do think he’s good).
After the incomprehensible rapture related drama Left Behind hit our shelves I was sure we hit the bottom of the Nic Cage barrel. Then we got Dying of the Light.
I’m kidding – truth be told, I’d definitely place Left Behind as the worst film Cage has appeared in. The DVD box doesn’t even bother matching its promotional images to the film inside it! Puzzling. Plus it doesn’t seem to have a screenplay. Still, it can be enjoyed on some level; a ‘wow I found Chad Michael Murray’s acting career and the rapture is happening to it!’ kind of level, or maybe even in a ‘who ever said you need production values to make a movie?’ kind of way. The problem for Dying of the Light, however, is that it’s just your bog standard, run of the mill, crap movie.
The premise for the film is fairly bland; Cage is an ageing CIA operative who can’t let go of the past and doesn’t want a desk job. Unfortunately for him, the powers that be want him to move on from the past and, owing to various issues that range from his ill health, general inability to do a decent job and Cage-brand shoutiness, would like to see him push papers around for a living instead. Even covert ops has admin.
Poor Cage. But for all of his intense shouting, there’s an equal dose of Anton Yelchin being hoarse, which is actually somewhat entertaining. I think it’s supposed to make him sound like an adult; or maybe he just really wants to be the next Liam Neeson… shame he doesn’t have a particular set of skills.
But boring plot and overacting aside, the real reason the film is so bad is because the screenplay is crap. I know the story behind the movie is a series of tear-jerker excuses from Schrader and his cinematographer about how the film was taken away from them and bastardised; cut, colour-graded, scored and mixed without their input (more on that over here and elsewhere on the interwebs.) but, personally, I don’t think that even an art aesthetic could improve a script filled with hysterical xenophobic jibes like,
What kind of name is that anyway? / It’s Kenyan.
You smell something? / Mombasa.
If you go with what’s on Wikipedia, the whole thing could have been a very different movie indeed – directed by Winding Refn (who instead made Drive, a fair alternative) and starring Harrison Ford (still shouty, but would surely have been far less intense – oh the shiver one gets down one’s spine when Nicolas Cage stares intently into the distance, or at anything, anywhere, ever) – it might even have been a half decent high octane action/thriller. But I doubt it. It would still have Schrader’s unbearable dialogue and not even thinly veiled anti-everything that isn’t “American values” rantings. And even those are confused.
For Schrader the ‘values’ have been seriously compromised. He sees the “American way of life” as a religion of “promiscuity and pop culture”. But he doesn’t really elaborate on what the original values that came before are. What exactly does he want to hold onto? Well, I know he thinks the CIA “fell from the Berlin Wall” and that the “Best and brightest” either “quit or retire”, so something is being let go.
If Cage’s character is the ‘best and brightes’t who hasn’t ‘quit or retired’ (as if those were to be avoided at all costs, including the life of anOther and the mental and physical health of one’s self) then the most worrying element to come out of these dull, toilet-like ninety minutes, is that Schrader probably thinks pretty highly of himself and, I suspect, is not planning on quitting or retiring any time soon. One can only hope that the rapture really does happen, and then maybe he’ll die, of the light, and stop making movies.
Cage is good though, innit.