Nicolas Cage as an actor is still a formidable screen presence, capable of an amazing moment, even in a mediocre movie.
But Nicolas Cage, as a movie star, just cannot get out of his own way.
After a nice little run with a passable thriller ( The Frozen Ground), empathetic voice work in a winning cartoon ( The Croods) and the critically acclaimed Southern Gothic jewel Joe, he returns to bad form with Rage, a movie only a desperate need for the distraction of work or the steadiness of a paycheck can explain.
When the director is someone unheard of, when the screenwriters’ credits scream “direct to video,” when the production is set to have you hurtling through the mean streets of Mobile, Ala., a normal Oscar winner would be tempted to mutter “Let me think about it.” Not Cage.
Rage is an ultra-violent vengeance thriller of the “sins of the father” genre. Cage plays a former mobster whose teenage daughter (Aubrey Peeples) is kidnapped. It’s time for this “legitimate businessman” to round up his old running mates (Max Ryan, Michael McGrady), bust a few heads and find some answers.
Ignore the grizzled detective (Danny Glover) who warns him not to “fall back on any of your old habits.”
Pay no heed to the former boss (Peter Stormare), confined to a wheelchair, who counsels him not to “show weakness,” to “bury” his hurt.
No, the brutal trio pile into a black Escalade and drive around town, pummeling, stabbing and shooting guys they figure “know something.” You know, “Stir the pot.”
This creates friction with the wife (Rachel Nichols). And with Glover’s cop, who really is getting too old for this.
The knuckle-headed script gives away the game early on, but still has the characters go through the motions of killing a lot of people, most of them before they’re so much as asked “Who took my daughter?”
Cage goes all crazy-eyes once or twice, which is what his fans expect from him these days.
It’s the sort of action piece where the Russian mob boss is a bit of a philosopher, where brawny hit men put down their guns and sometimes peel off a shirt to show off their muscles and tattoos before delivering a beating.
Rage lets us see where all the money was spent — on Cage, and on a noisy, metal-rending car chase through scenic Mobile. It’s head-slappingly dumb, it’s dull and even the novelty of filming outside of the over-filmed Los Angeles adds nothing.
We’re way too familiar with the look of Cage in a rage. Any hope that he’ll make a poor script watchable, or even get out of his own way, is dashed within minutes of the opening credits. He deserves better, but he seems to be the only one who doesn’t realize this.
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