There’s not another actor at work who could pull off this type of blood-spattered chicanery

Cage uncaged in Mandy.
  • Cage uncaged in Mandy.

We celebrate the blu-ray release of Mandy and look back on a pair of game-changing middle-period Nicolas Cage pictures guaranteed to give your eyeballs a workout.

Mandy (2018)

Mandy (2018) trailer

Lumberjack boy (Cage) meets artistically-inclined girl (Andrea Riseborough). Together, they move to a remote cabin in Eastern California where our heroine is brutally assaulted and murdered by a motorcycle gang comprised of slobbering religious zealots. That leaves the final hour or so of the running time for the boy to enact a proudly gratuitous revenge. It’s great to look at, particularly if one has a thing for a rigidly fanciful color palette that appears to have been filtered through a box of individually wrapped freezer pops. Director and co-writer Panos Cosmatos works hard to extract the ugliness in life, right down to our heroine’s description of her dad crowbarring a pillowcase filled with baby starlings. But why CG reptilian bad guys when authentic Shadow Mountain shitkickers pose a far more threatening danger? That’s just one of many dumb (or do you call them surrealistic?) choices made by Cosmatos. It takes a long time for Cage to make good on the promise of an introductory shot of him wielding a chainsaw, but when he does, there’s not another actor at work who could pull off this type of blood-spattered chicanery.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2010)

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2010) trailer

In an interview with The Guardian, Abel Ferrera, co-author and director of Bad Lieutenant, likened Werner Herzog’s version to being robbed. The mere thought of remaking his film left him with “a horrible feeling.” He asked how Nicolas Cage “can even have the nerve to play Harvey Keitel,” and called Herzog’s screenwriter William Finkelstein “an idiot.” To ensure that his point was well taken, he proclaimed that those who participated in the remake “should all die in hell.” When asked his thoughts on Ferrara’s rant, Herzog laughed, “That’s show business!” Not surprisingly, Herzog’s take on the crazed cop owes little to the Ferrara version. Cage stars as a Big Easy detective investigating the murder of five Senegalese immigrants. He’s bad from the get-go and gets progressively worse after an on-duty accident forces him to seek the cauterizing comfort of prescription drugs. Watching Cage’s spiraling descent into narcotics, gambling, and madness will surely bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded cinephile.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) trailer

The plot of this adventure yarn has something to do with an ancient but eternally buff master sorcerer (Cage) trying to prevent the release of two evil spirits - each destined to wipe out civilization as we know it - from a nesting egg. Bad Lieutenant ushered in a much-needed return to form for the actor. Between Adaptation and Herzog, Cage headlined an embarrassingly long string of brain-numbing big-budget action pictures. This time, the visually sumptuous live-action Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer theme park ride was worth the “E” Ticket it cost to board. As the over-stimulated Balthazar, you have to give the guy credit for one thing: it takes a lot to out-act what amounts to the dirtiest hairpiece this side of Tom Sizemore’s in Strange Days. Not many Disney dollars went into the design and dry cleaning of Cage’s stringy schmate. With Jay Baruchel in the role originally created by Mickey Mouse.

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