Uncaged - Fire Birds (1990) & Zandalee (1991)
This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me.
Fire Birds (1990)
This is the first truly forgettable movie in the marathon, which I didn’t think was possible simply because of Nicolas Cage’s presence. It’s essentially a Top Gun ripoff with little of the joy or cheesy memorableness of that movie, but the jingoism sure as hell is intact. The movie was made by two military men after all. I feel most movies about the Air Force are most prone to this blind patriotism simply because the enemy is far away, making it easy to dehumanize them. It was probably asking too much of this movie to comment on America’s role in the drug war, especially since 1990 was close to the height of the war on drugs, but its non-complex view of the drug cartel didn’t sit well with me. Otherwise, the story revolves around the relationship between a grizzled, old pilot (Tommy Lee Jones) worrying about his relevance due to his advanced age and a hotshot, talented young pilot (Cage). It’s a plot we’ve seen hundreds of times before in movies, and this one brings nothing new to the table. Even the conflict between the two men is resolved pretty quickly (the movie is mercifully under 90 minutes). Overall, this movie failed to make any impression on me. Also, Sean Young is in this movie, probably because they couldn’t get Kelly McGinnis.
OK, as most people know, there is good Cage and bad Cage. Bad Cage tends to also be epically, awesomely bad, and Zandalee falls squarely in the latter camp. One might argue that Vampire’s Kiss is the prime example of bad Cage, but I think a case needs to be made for freakin’ Zandalee, at least this far in the marathon. Holy crap this movie… I swear, when I was reading the plot description, I thought I had heard it somewhere before. And then it struck me. It was The Room. An unfaithful woman cheats on her rich husband with his loser best friend. Cage plays the Greg Sestero in this movie, and his friend...is played by Judge Reinhold. Just like The Room, it aims for Tennessee Williams melodrama, but ends up in bathos. Granted, this movie is populated with much better actors than anyone in the room, and Cage is intensely watchable as the greasy artist type who “never sold out, man!”
The thing is, both men, but Cage more so, are so full of shit that I just couldn’t believe that Zandalee (Erika Anderson) would fall for either men. She must have been born without a bullshit detector because Cage’s character is so obviously an idiot that any sensible woman would have run screaming the other way. We’re supposed to believe that both of these men had great artistic potential, but this movie flat out failed to convince me. I also really didn’t believe that the two men were childhood friends. Seriously, Cage’s character should have been the one that bullied the crap out of Judge Reinhold’s character while they were growing up. Going back to Vampire’s Kiss, I will admit that I was definitely more entertained by this movie all throughout whereas in Vampire’s Kiss, I was bored for long stretches, though the “highs” in that movie are much higher than anything in Zandalee. Then again, there is a scene in which Cage covers himself in black paint...