Is the IRS to blame for Nicolas Cage's run of terrible movies?
Upon the release of “Season of the Witch,” the debate began anew over which of Nicolas Cage’s films stands as his worst. Lost in all the wailing is the fact that the man is heavily in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, which has no doubt compromised the decision–making process.
Cage made a name for himself with the instant classic “Valley Girl” in 1982. He gave a great performance as Randy, an LA punk in love with a Valley Girl, and the film almost immediately went into heavy rotation on HBO.
Over the next 13 years, Cage starred in more than a dozen films, with some of the best directors of the era, like the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Alan Parker and his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola. There were some duds, to be sure--“Amos & Andrew” and “Zandalee”-- but there were more than enough good-to-great films—“Birdy,” “Raising Arizona,” “Wild at Heart,” and “Red Rock West”—to make news of an upcoming Nic Cage film a cause for excitement.
Then came “Leaving Las Vegas,” in which he starred, as an alcoholic who had retreated to Vegas to drink himself to death, but ends up falling for a prostitute, played by Elizabeth Shue. It was a wrenching portrayal of a man teetering on the edge, earning Cage a Best Actor Oscar.
With his statuette in hand, Cage watched the money truck back up to his house. From June of ‘97 to February of ’99, he starred in six big-budget films of varying degrees of terribleness: “The Rock,” “Con Air,” “Face/Off,” “City of Angles,” “Snake Eyes” and “8MM.”
Upon amassing more wealth the he probably ever imagined, he caught his breath long enough to make “Bringing out the Dead” with Martin Scorsese. It wasn’t the best work from either, but it least Cage was again trying to make decent films. For the next few years he put out a fairly even mix of garbage and art, for every “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” there was an “Adaptation.”
After starring in Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center,” Cage went on another three-year tear, starring in six lowbrow big-budget messes, prompting Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly to ask if Cage was “an artist or a hack.”
Around this time the Internal Revenue Service came calling on Cage, saying the actor owed millions in back taxes, a state of affairs Cage blamed on bad business decisions and a sketchy financial adviser. Regardless of the cause, the actor was now in need of making enough money to not only maintain what he can of the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed, but he also must pay off $14 million—and when you’re in Cage’s tax bracket, that can mean earning $28 million.
And so we’ve been subjected to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Season of the Witch.” What makes these latest choices particularly egregious is not the material, but Cage’s performances. At least during films like “Con Air,” you could see he was trying on some level. But he was sleepwalking through “Sorcerer’s,” a film that might’ve succeeded with the benefit of the world-class scenery chewing that was Cage’s calling card. As for “Season,” it’s tempting to say he kept breaking character, but the truth is he never developed the character.
There still glimmers out there in the ether some good will for the man. How else to explain the magnificent YouTube montage appropriately titled, “Nicolas Cage Loses His S***,” which features 4 minutes and 14 seconds of boundless insanity from the man?
On Friday, Cage’s latest, “Drive Angry 3D” hits theaters, in which he plays a man who escapes from hell to seek vengeance on the Satanist who killed his daughter. Maybe it’ll be awesome. At the very least it will get Cage a little bit more out of debt.