‘Hollywood Mega-Star’ Movie Demerits: Nicolas Cage

Many respected and highly paid professions require their practitioners to be highly skilled and reliable at performing the basic aspects of the craft.

In fact it is fair to say that the better remunerated the profession the greater the expectation of quality and superior performance.

You gotta learn your ropes. Crawl before you walk. That sorta stuff.

And in terms of actors you have to appear in some dogs in the early days…

You wouldn’t go to see a doctor that you knew to be unlicensed – unless you were shot while committing a crime I guess – nor would you opt for a flight piloted by someone who flies as a hobby over a trained airline pilot.

I don’t see why one of the most overpaid career choices on the planet get away scot-free again and again. So the other day in a turbulent bout of genius-ness I came up with a
revolutionary concept.


From the guy who gave the world B-Movie Haiku Reviews and more bad Lindsay Lohan jokes than a late night TV host, OGR proudly presents:

Hollywood Star Acting Demerits

That’s right folks. From now on box-office and Metacritic scores be damned, I am personally making some of the Hollywood lollygaggers accountable for poor decision making and for phoning in performances. Whether the film was straight to DVD or unfairly made a bazillion, if one of the leads screwed the pooch we shouldn’t have to stand
for it.

This process is not designed to worry about the poor hardworking paycheque to paycheque character actors or supporting cast members, if you don’t make the poster on most films in which you appear then the system should eventually either eject you or elevate you to Buscemi-like status (more respected / lower paid). This process is for the guys n gals who normally appear smack dab in the middle of the poster, the guys n gals who are interviewed on red carpets and are driven to various premieres and public appearances to stare blankly at your gushing fans unless cameras are pointed at you.

The System

The system is harsh but fair; everyone starts with the same number of points in the black, a bad performance costs you points depending on factors including:

  • the general stinkiness of the movie
  • whether you were trying or not
  • whether the movie was taking a chance or not
  • what was expected from the movie, a big budget stinker counts worse than a low budget indie stinker
  • how long it has been since your last bona fide quality film
  • whether you are Shia Le Bouf

Once you lose a point or points there is only one way to make it back – no regaining points after a period of time here – the only way to regain points on your license is to earn them through solid performances in decent films. Again being ‘adequate’ or even merely ‘good’ isn’t going to cut it here in the real world, adequacy and goodness are expected not lauded, you really need to pull something out of the bag to justify me tacking a point or two back onto your sheet.

To summarize; everyone starts with a clean sheet and twelve shiny points, the early movies in a star’s career are treated as Learner’s permit freebies. It is only when they strike big that the burden of consistent worthiness comes crashing down upon their shoulders.

It’s an easy and obvious starting point, but to illustrate my theory I give you the poster boy for inconsistency and plain old fashioned unpredictability.

The man who appears equally at home on the stage of the Oscars or the Razzies.
The man who seems to make acting choices based upon the hairpiece that he is handed prior to filming.
The man who can’t say ‘No’ to a bad idea yet seems to manage to occasionally make these awful concepts oddly watchable.
The man who inspired me to develop the theory that he is in fact two separate actors with disparate tastes and abilities working together covertly to pull the wool over the movie-going public’s collective eyes.

(Ordinarily I plan to run on a 1-3 point demerit system. But Mr Cage has a 20 odd year career with dozens of films, so as a reward for longevity the max penalty for egregious acting and decisions will be 2 points.)

Mr Nic / Nicolas Cage.

We’ll ignore the early 80s when young Nic Cage was just another kid with a famous relative in the industry, Cage was in a few coming of age films like Fast Times at Ridgmont High etc and then with Peggy Sue Got Married he went on a four year tear that was as ambitious as it was eye-opening, Moonstruck, Raising Arizona, Vampire’s Kiss and Red Rock West all in quick succession.

With five certified quality films under his belt the offers came from far and wide. It is at this point that we grant Mr Cage a retrospective Star License and wish him all the best.

Buckle up and act safely.

Teething problems

After Red Rock West Mr Cage was a legit Hollywood name – not yet a Star mind you – but he was near the front of the queue for many casting agents. So like a dumb guy getting his first ‘pre-approved credit card’ offer in the mail or a new ebayer, Nicolas Cage had a ill thought out run where he said Yes! altogether too quickly and frequently.

The result? Amos & Andrew, Trapped in Paradise and Guarding Tess in rapid succession. Never heard of ’em? Lucky you, the three combined can’t crack 100% of the Tomatometer. But like the empathetic law enforcement officer that I am I am willing to attribute this unfortunate run to the irrational exuberance of the newly famous.

That’s your first and only warning Son, I suggest you straighten yourself up and think a little more carefully when someone shoves a script under your nose.

(After 94 through 97 that same cop would look at the papers and smile knowingly like a proud father.)

The Rise to ‘Mega-Star dom’

Between 1994 and 1997 Cage officially arrived. Capital ‘M’, capital ‘S’.

  • It could happen to you
  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • Kiss of Death
  • The Rock
  • Con Air
  • Face/Off

In short; in 36 or so months Cage took on and defeated the light romantic comedy, the big budget popcorn blockbuster (the man practically invented the huge pointless movie) and the stylish more credible action movie thanks to John Woo.

Oh and there’s that Oscar thing that he won with Mr Party All Day in Leaving Las Vegas.

You’ve set the bar high Mr Cage. Mega-Stardom is a great responsibility. Here is your license, let’s see how you handle it…

A Stalled Career

City of Angels

Um. So you’re an angel in love with Meg Ryan or something? I want to dock you but I haven’t seen this drivel. Lucky for you I think.

Snake Eyes

But I did see this crap. You have had many chances Mr Cage.

Verdict: 2 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 10

Bringing out the Dead

A depressing drama about a paramedic on the verge of losing his mind. You can do these flicks in your sleep Nic. Neither points lost or gained, this is merely expected.

Verdict: 0 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 10


A ‘dark look at the seedy underbelly of the more perverse elements of society’, which devolved into a standard serial killer film climax. Oh and it kinda sucked even when it was delving into the seedy underbelly.

You’re better than this. Or at least you should hope you are. This is bad enough to be a drinking game somewhere.

Verdict: 2 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 8

Gone in 60 Seconds

We’re in the 2000s now. I’ve actually seen this lazy car thief flick that thinks putting a bunch of names in a stock standard setting will fool us into buying a ticket – the 100 Million gross actually supports this argument.

Now I haven’t seen it in a decade, but even I didn’t think it was as terrible as the 75% of RT critics who flogged it. At the risk of being accused of a sheep mentality, I will tentatively fall into line and go with the consensus.

Verdict: 1 Point deducted.             Points remaining: 9

The Family Man

Didn’t see it. But not because I never got around to it, I read enough to see ‘pleasant’, ‘light’, ‘formulaic’ as prefixes to ‘rom-com’ and utilised my better judgment. If only Nic did too.

Verdict: 1 Point deducted.            Points remaining: 8

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Didn’t see it but COME ON!!!

Deduction for the title alone.

Verdict: 1 Point deducted.             Points remaining: 7


It made sense on the back of a *cough* lean run to run back to the welcoming dual pistol wielding arms of John Woo, who turned Face/Off into such a guilty pleasure.

But when he decides to eschew the OTT indulgences and instead makes a straight up war movie sans the flash? Not so much.

I didn’t hate Windtalkers, but there wasn’t much to talk about.

Verdict: 1 Point deducted.             Points remaining: 6

Pause for breath folks. That’s 8 films with a grand total of ONE decent effort. The repo guys might be dropping in soon to take back your ‘mega’.

The Revival


Cage teams with Spike Jonze to make one of the more challenging and interesting films in years.

I normally don’t grant points, but as two Kaufmans Nicolas Cage reminded everyone that he is far more than an over-exuberant wig model.

This was also the genesis of my two Nic/Nicolas Cage’s theory that only gains more credence with every year.

Verdict: 2 Points Gained!               Points remaining: 8

Matchstick Men

Look I’m on record saying this film is OK, but Nicolas Cage playing a man with possible mental issues? Hardly a stretch.

Verdict: 0 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 8

National Treasure

Cage tries to kickstart his own Indy Jones Da Vinci Code crossover. This film divided critics, half thought it blew dog, the other half found it mindlessly entertaining.

Both were right.

Verdict: 0 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 8

The Weather Man

Another one I hadn’t seen previously. Another film where Cage plays a man losing his fragile grip on reality, so I never bothered with it. But glancing at the frequent mentions of the film’s strangeness makes me thought I should check it out.

Verdict: 0 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 8

Lord of War / World Trade Center

Cage’s I’m the dramatic acting guy reminders. Lord of War was stylish and ambitious, World Trade Center allowed Oliver Stone a free shot at the easiest of easy dramatic targets.

Cage was compelling and impressive in both, but again this should be expected from an Oscar winning Mega-Star…

Verdict: 0 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 8

Phew. After losing the plot for a while there it seems we have righted the ship. In that 6 film run there is something of value for practically everyone.

The Middle Age Spread

The Wicker Man / Ghost Rider / Next

Woah mule! That is not how I would consolidate your most acclaimed era.

The Wicker Man is an unnecessary remake of an original which – if I’m honest – wasn’t deserving of the acclaim it received in the first place.

Ghost Rider was indulgent spam that turned him into a flaming-skulled motorcyclist, only in one of the blander comic-book adaptations ever committed to film.

Next was more a one word review of itself. (But it was also a crappy film about a guy who can see the future who must use these abilities to save the world.)

Verdict: 3 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 5

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

OK, the original was unnecessary but made big bucks, I’ll allow the obligatory sequel even though the word is that it was awful (like it was ever going to be anything else!). No more please.

Verdict: 0 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 5

Bangkok Dangerous

Another one I purposefully chose to ignore, maybe due to the fact that it boasted the worst Tomatometer of any film in Cage’s entire career!

That fact alone can’t go ignored.

Verdict: 2 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 3

I’m being generous just docking a couple of points, but let’s see if we can delay the inevitable for a little while longer shall we?

The Dead Cat Bounce

Knowing / Bad Lieutenant / Kick-Ass

I thought over half of Knowing was excellent and compelling viewing, especially for a wide release film. Bad Lieutenant was a slightly diluted but no less challenging viewing of the Harvey Keitel original (and a film that might have been the answer to the trivia question: what is the least likely film of the 90s to justify a sequel?)

Kick-Ass was another exciting and original flick, but this one for the duration of the film. Though it must be said that Cage and his channelling ‘Adam West as Batman’ Big Daddy wasn’t a significant reason behind the success.

Verdict: 0 Points deducted.           Points remaining: 3

Three mainstream films that were refreshingly non-mainstream. While Knowing was mostly panned I will stick up for what it tried to be, and Kick-Ass and Bad Lt 2 ended up on several end of year best of lists.

Just Pay Me

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The film wasn’t totally awful and it’s hard to hate a film that just wants to tap into some good old ‘between Harry Potter release’ money. But even at the time I accused Cage of being in ‘Just pay me’ mode and suggested he needed a nudge during scenes to break his sleepwalking. So…

Verdict: 1 Point deducted.             Points remaining: 2


Two of the most under-achieving actors of the modern era in the same film? How could this possibly go wrong? Oh wait, I didn’t really think about what I was saying…

Verdict: 1 Point deducted.             Points remaining: 1

Drive Angry / Season of the Witch

Drive Angry at least tries to bring back the sadly rare genuine MA film, with violence, profanity and nudity for all. But as I said at the time “Nic Cage’s film choices are starting to look a lot less like ‘taking chances’ and more like the desperate grasping of a drowning man.”

And the less said about Season of the Witch the better.

Verdict: 2 Points deducted.           Points remaining: -1

Only time will tell if Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance will restore balance to the universe… (I can hardly type that without laughing.)

It’s official Mr Cage, your acting card is revoked.

We’ve had a chat with Hollywood and they have agreed to let you hang around. We’ll even pay you to appear in movies every now and then, kind of like how U2 get to release an album every few years even though everyone stopped caring about them years ago. But hand back both the ‘mega’ and ‘star’ tags at the door on your way out.

You can keep the wigs.


About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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