Director – Tom Gormican – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 105m
Down on his luck, actor Nick Cage (playing himself) accepts the job of spending time at a fan’s house for one million dollars, unaware that his host is a crime lord pursued by the CIA – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd
This unusual entry in the ‘actor playing themselves’ genre is effectively the movie equivalent of fan fiction. That might sound disparaging, but that’s not at all what I mean.
Obsessed with the actor Nic Cage and his movies, writer-director Gormican has written this: a movie in which a character called Nick Cage (Nic Cage playing a version of himself) is an actor down on his luck, desperate to get a part for which he’s just auditioned and which he believes will revitalise his flagging career. He needs this part. He’s heavily in debt. His ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) wants him to spend more time with their teenage daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen), specifically, listening to her, since he spends most of his time spouting off about his own career in particular or movies in general.
When the part he’s after falls through, he decides to take the other offer from his agent Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), the one where he gets a million dollars for hanging out with a rich fan. So it’s off to Spain to meet Javi (Pedro Pascal). And although Cage is dreading their meeting, the two hit it off in a major way. His actors’ instincts for reading people, which he’s grown to trust over the years, tell him that Javi is a good guy.
Sadly, those instincts look to be wrong this time. Javi is being observed by the CIA in the form of Vivian (Tiffany Haddish): the Agency believes him to be a crime lord. And when Nick arrives at Javi’s island, Vivian pigeonholes Cage to get him to work as an informant on the inside of Javi’s organisation.
Part comedy, part action movie, this moves effortlessly between those two genres, sometimes doing so when you least expect it. It both feels like yet another Nic Cage action vehicle and, in places, a laugh-out-loud funny comedy. The humour derives from character, with the actor – ex-wife – daughter relationship cleverly constructed to showcase Horgan’s comedic talents as the perfect, down to Earth foil to the self-obsessed Hollywood actor. The buddy pairing of Cage and Pedro Pascal as actor and super-fan also proves fruitful.
Although the tone shifts between the two genres, you’re never bored. That said, if you go in wanting a full-on action movie, it won’t deliver because it gets too frequently pushed into comedy; if you go in wanting a full-on comedy, it won’t deliver because it gets too frequently pushed into action. Best to put your expectations completely on hold, in which case you’re likely to enjoy everything it throws at you, which include some surprising plot twists and turns towards the end.
Cage actually plays himself twice, getting embroiled in conversations with his younger, more career-focused self Nicky who sports a Wild At Heart (David Lynch, 1990) T-shirt. Haddish is particularly good as the CIA agent who knows an opportunity for the Agency when she sees it. Harris as the actor’s agent provides light relief when, for instance, he takes his client to a massage parlour to unwind where the treatment includes being beaten by bunches of pointy holly leaves.
At one point, Cage takes LSD then finds himself having to drive a car in a car chase. The ten minutes or so of the running length when he’s stoned is arguably the comedic high point: there’s an especially hilarious sequence where Cage scales a wall and another where he has to escape from a room by going out the ledge and along a window several storeys up. Outside the comedy, the action sequences are effective without rising above most other Nic Cage action movies, but equally, these are of the calibre you would expect.
Not a masterpiece exactly, but an audience-pleasing effort that’s a lot of fun to watch. When you hit the clever, unexpected twist towards the end, you’ll wonder at first exactly what is going on.
As a summation of the comic and action generic aspects of Cage’s real life, onscreen career to date, it’s pretty impressive too.
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, April 22nd.