Nicolas Cage is something of a cult icon. Not least because the persona of him is almost as famous as his ever impressive back catalogue. We know he's a Coppola, we've seen the award worthy turns, his winning performance on Leaving Las Vegas. His more outlandish roles in Face/Off, Con Air, The Rock and the Ghost Rider movies. We also know he's someone who likes what he likes, a comic book fan, an Elvis completist, a guy who created his own form of acting. When certain actors get to this point there's two ways they can go, embrace the persona and audience love or run from it.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, not unlike The World According to Jeff Goldblum, embraces the persona of Nic Cage. The film sees a fictional version of Nic Cage, father to a disinterested teenager, ex-husband and in desperate need of cash. He's asked to make an appearance at a rich man's birthday and in the process uncovers a CIA plot to bring a drug lord down.
Cage hasn't been this fun is a while. His films can often be very silly, cheap, sometimes over the top but they often buckle under his own presence. The film is built around Cage, and as “himself” and a Terry Wogan interview era younger Nicky Cage he is on fire. There's a weight of sadness to the film about someone who grapples with their legacy and Cage makes it his own. It helps that he's paired with Pedro Pascal's Javi. Pascal might be known for coming into big franchises and putting his own brand of strong, masculine anti-heroes into the mix but here he is allowed to play up his comedic chops a lot more. The two bounce off together, and a recurring joke about Paddington 2 is probably one of the highlights.
The film is a caper, and as a result the plotting is never as interesting as the two characters at their core. Despite her best efforts Sharon Horgan's no-nonsense ex wife and Lily Sheen's grumpy teen daughter can't always muster enough emotional response to make their inclusion in the third act stick. For the most part it's down to the sublime buddy comedy of Cage and Pascal that make it work.
It's also fair that Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz' CIA agents are very underused and make you wonder if the film could have been better without them. A buddy movie about these two is enough to carry the runtime, and the constant intrusion of plot threatens to undermine what is a thoroughly good time.
Director Tom Gormican references the great action directors like John Woo, but his third act lacks any of the flair. For him it's enough to just let his two leads bounce off each other and in that regard he's right. This is a film about these two men and when it's on their shoulders it's at it's best. All hail the Cage.
Lionsgate presents The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent on digital 8 July and SteelBook, 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD 11 July