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Uncaged - Trapped in Paradise (1994) & Kiss of Death (1995)

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.

Trapped in Paradise (1994)

Nicolas Cage is clearly a great comic actor, but he doesn’t get to show it much in this hybrid of a heist film and comedy. Cage plays a restaurant manager who has to manage his two brothers out on parole. Somehow, he gets roped into performing a big bank heist in the little town of Paradise, but, of course, everything that can go wrong, does. The movie aims to be a heartwarming comedy/holiday film but the product is ultimately too cynical and glossy. Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey are very specific comic talents who can be hilarious in the right roles (and, arguably, when they have very limited screen time). Here, they are on screen for way too long and Lovitz’s smarminess and Carvey’s affected dumbness started grating on me after a while. I was actually quite grateful for Cage’s straight man, since it reassured me that the movie knew how annoying they were, and also, how many of the movie’s story conflicts arose from something stupid one or both of them did, which just got really annoying after a while. Also, I was never quite convinced that the warmth and genuineness of the townspeople whom they robbed had really rubbed off on them, except in Cage’s case. Usually, in his bad movies, Cage usually doesn’t give the best performance, but this movie might be the exception.

Kiss of Death (1995)

This loose remake of a noir classic features the most forgettable leading man possible in David Caruso. I probably would have known him better if I had watched NYPD Blue, but even in movies that he has apparently been in, I still have no idea who he played. It’s not that he is a bad actor; he’s actually pretty decent as the ex-con trying desperately to get out of the con life. It’s just that he has no damn charisma, a tenuous quality at best but a necessary one for someone who is supposed to carry a whole movie. Apparently, even the Razzies recognized this when they nominated him for Worst New Star, even though I think those “awards” are cynical and meaningless and have no idea what makes a “good” bad movie. But this movie wastes not one, but two, great actors in small roles. Helen Hunt gets killed off early, and Nicolas Cage plays a type that he has played in many movies, a hyper-masculine criminal/greaseball. The only actor that is probably used well is Michael Rapaport, who could have easily taken Caruso’s place and automatically made this movie better, even though he’s well-cast as the motormouth con that gets Caruso’s character into trouble in the first place. The movie is predictable and frankly, pretty dreary, for most of its running time. I will say that there is a prime Cage moment, when he bench presses a stripper at a strip club. It’s at least compilation-worthy.

 

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