Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The 10 best Nicolas Cage films.

Nicolas Cage isn't exactly the most popular actor to ever make it big. Sure, he's appealing enough to land big budget roles, but there are plenty of people who'd much rather be forced to wear a helmet full of bees than sit through one of his movies (especially The Wicker Man).

Nic Cage is marmite. He's eccentric, he's weird, his hair is a bird, and he doesn't help himself by making some terrible, terrible film choices. I must admit it would be much easier to make a list of the 10 worst Nic Cage movies, but I won't, because in the last year or so Cage has made two films to help restore his reputation. They're in this list so I won't mention them here but they served to remind us that when he picks the right role (which he hadn't done for a very, VERY long time), Cage can be a damn good actor.

Over the years, he's had the mid-life crisis, made big budget duds (which despite a return to form, he is still doing), but in a career spanning over 20 years he has had his fair share of good movies. Below are 10 of his best:

10. Face/Off (1997)

Absolutely ridiculous. This is literally one of the most unbelievable plots an action movie has ever produced. Yet it is the best film John Woo made in a rather ill-fated spell in Hollywood, purely because it is an awful lot of fun.

Cage and Travolta are given the opportunity to ham it up and they take it with relish, producing cartoonish performances as a heroic cop and demonic villain who trade faces in a top secret undercover operation. It all gets very complicated but there are some genuinely good action sequences (Cage's prison escape is a highlight) and for a man who's made some pretty bad action movies, this is easily one of the better ones.

9. Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Will not be the film Martin Scorsese will be remembered for, nor Nic Cage for that matter, but this film definitely had it's moments. Cage plays a paramedic haunted by visions of the people he's tried to save. Moody and atmospheric, it was a welcome change of pace for Cage, who was well into a string of ridiculous movies at this point. It gave him an opportunity to flex his acting muscles, resulting in one of his better performances.

8. The Rock (1996)

Probably the film that created Cage the action star, for better or worse, The Rock is an over the top Michael Bay film that came before Bay really lost it. After 81 tourists are taken hostage on Alcatraz island, Cage, a biochemist, must get to the site to disarm some stolen gas warheads, but he needs help. The interplay between Cage and Sean Connery in this film is great, and The Rock just works as a boombastic and entertaining action movie; a formula Cage would struggle to find in future movies.

7. Matchstick Men (2003)

Once again, a film that finds Cage working with a top director for a smaller, less spectacular film. What Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men lacks in big budget excess it makes up for in charm and wit. Cage is perfectly cast as an obsessive compulsive con-man, playing up to his trademark quirks and neurotic style. The twist is somewhat disappointing, but Matchstick Men makes for an entertaining and diverting conman movie that works well because it plays to Cage's strengths, offering great support from Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman.

6. Lord of War (2005)

A film that is arguably best remembered for its inventive opening credits sequence if anything else, Lord of War may have glossed over a serious issue, but it certainly left the viewer with something to think about. Cage gleefully plays an amoral arms dealer, charting his pursuit by an interpol agent, his family relationships and the inner conflicts of his job. At times both funny and haunting, it's an entertaining way at confronting an issue that is at the forefront of modern conflict.

5. Kick-Ass (2010)

The first of the redeeming films I mentioned earlier, this is Cage demonstrating he has a sense of humour, and moving away from the overly serious roles that almost led to him becoming something of a self-parody. In a film with so many great bits in it, Cage is one of the best. The Adam West-style voice he uses in his Big Daddy alter-ego is hilarious and his bizarre relationship with his daughter is as touching as it is twisted. This is exactly the sort of role Cage needed to help restore a damaged reputation with the movie going public.

4. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

The second of the redeeming films. This is Nic Cage at his crazy best. Too easily dismissed as an unnecessary remake of a not-that-brilliant film, it actually shares little in common with the Harvey Keitel original. Cage makes the role of the bad lieutenant his own; a drug addicted weirdo with a very loose sense of morals. The crucial thing is that he remains likeable, with a shred of decency that shines through and keeps you rooting for Cage's character. It's the strangest role Cage has taken since Adaptation, which is a shame because nobody does strange better than Nicolas Cage.

3. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

The film that won Cage an Oscar. It's depressing, often heartbreaking, and a difficult watch but features powerful performances, with Cage putting in a career-best performance as an alcoholic screenwriter looking to drink himself to death. Darker and more personal than anything Cage had done before or since, the chemistry between Cage and Elizabeth Shue is great and Cage was deserving of the recognition he received for a very challenging role.

2. Adaptation (2002)

The film for which Cage received his second Oscar nomination, it marked a brief return to form after a mid-career slump. The famously complicated and highly unique plot charts screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's (Cage) failed attempts to adapt a Susan Orlean's 'The Orchid Thief' into a screenplay. The film features a wonderfully offbeat performance from Cage, playing a meek and uncertain man, and getting the opportunity to act against himself as Kaufman's (fictional) brother. The most original film Cage has starred in, with Nic at his oddball best.

1. Raising Arizona (1987)

Whether there is something to be said about the fact that Cage's best film came out 23 years ago is up to you but it is one of the Coen Brother's best and certainly Cage's funniest performance. Cage and Holly Hunter but in wonderful performances as an ex-con and ex-cop who steal a baby. The chemistry between the two actors is superb and despite their twisted actions, there is something very sweet at the heart of this movie. It's the kind of role Cage needs to be in again at some point, but with a Ghost Rider sequel in the works (who asked for that!?) we might need to hold our breath.

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