Uncaged - Red Rock West (1993) & Deadfall (1993)
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.
Red Rock West (1993)
Out of all the Nic Cage movies I hadn’t seen, I was probably looking forward to this one the most. This was mainly because John Dahl had directed one of my favorite postmodern noirs, The Last Seduction, with a crackling, sexy performance by Linda Fiorentino who plays femme fatale with a double dose of I don’t give a fuck. If anyone could give a male equivalent of what Fiorentino did...I would have said Dennis Hopper first to be honest. But Cage would have been a close second.
However, when I finally watched this movie, no such performance was to be found. Not that this is to the movie’s detriment. This is the first time that I was just buying Cage as his character rather than constantly being aware that he is a strange, strange man. Cage can obviously play insane and over-the-top quite well, but it is when he is quieter and vulnerable that I think he really shines. Dennis Hopper does most of the heavy lifting as the colorful, very Texan assassin hired to kill Lara Flynn Boyle, who really wasn’t that thrilling of a femme fatale. I could believe that she would betray any one of these men on the merest whim, but I couldn’t see the appeal of her just from her performance. Basically, Cage’s character is a nice guy trying to stay out of trouble, and he tries to do the right thing when he’s not desperate, or if it doesn’t put him in mortal danger.
John Dahl captures the beautiful Western landscape, especially at night, which makes this movie at least visually distinctive, even if the story is classic noir, and frankly, quite predictable. Still it chugs along quite well, and there are some terrific scenes of real tension, especially towards the end when things ramp up in typical noir fashion. I thought this movie in the Nic Cage marathon, out of all the ones I hadn’t seen before, would have the best chance of getting into my personal Canon, but it didn’t quite hit the mark. It’s still very much worth a watch, and a great example of noir done well.
I can see hints of a good film in Deadfall. It is a pretty standard noir in which Michael Biehn plays a con artist who has accidentally killed his father in a con and goes to hide out with his uncle (James Coburn). (James Coburn plays both his father and uncle quite confusingly.) Even though he doesn’t intend to continue his criminal lifestyle, he gets suckered into doing so. The story plods along at an uninspired pace, thanks to Oscar winner Nick Vallelonga of Green Book fame. Just from the last name of director Christopher Coppola and the presence of Cage and Talia Shire, this movie reeks of nepotism and indulgence. I would have enjoyed Cage’s ridiculous performance as a small-time, volatile mobster if I hadn’t seen this shtick in both Peggy Sue Got Married and Vampire’s Kiss if the rest of the movie had been just a tiny bit inspired to keep up with him. Instead, it’s predictable and uninspired. The movie’s main redeeming grace is the beautiful cinematography of Maryse Alberti, who also shot Velvet Goldmine. She uses the night time to bring tension to a scene rather than to hide cheap locations and bad performances. Also, the last scene on the carousel is so beautifully lit and composed that I almost wanted to like this film just because of that moment, but it wasn’t quite enough.