Runtime: 94 Mins
What To Expect: A terminally boring film, suspect acting
Earlier in the year Paul Shrader, Nicolas Cage and Anton Yelchin urged and actually in some instances begged people to boycott this movie, Dying of the Light. Publicity stunt were the first two words that came to mind with me. However it appears there was more to it than that. Helmer Paul Shrader took to Facebook to declare that the movie was “taken away from me, edited, scored, and mixed” by the studio. Conveniently, the post has since been removed. The same thing happened in a recent Nicolas Cage movie (The Frozen Ground), which suffered because of studio interference. Whether this movie was originally actually any good or not, I can tell you that the end result is indeed very poor.
It’s 22 years ago, the movie tells us, and CIA field agent Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) is being tortured by some jihadists, one in particular going to work on him. They want him to give up a mole, and when Lake refuses, Allah wills it that they torture Lake half to death, including ripping lumps of ear off with pliers. Luckily, Cage is rescued by special forces just in time, where the ringleading jihadist is killed. Over 20 years later, Cage is still traumatized by his ordeal and has now succumbed to frontal lobe dementia, possibly aggravated by PTSD. But, rumors abound that the lead jihadist is alive, and also suffering from illness. Cage wants closure and to hunt him down. In Romania (yes).
I kept asking myself questions throughout this ‘espionage thriller’, which elicited more than a few unintentional laughs. For instance, who are these jihadists? And what did they want? No answers there. Okay then. Well why does Lake care so much about hunting down some pissant that is terminally ill? To kill him? One of his superiors even points out that the guy is dying anyway, and that trying to kill him will be pointless and get him fired. Unconvinced, Lake heads on to Romania anyway – in the movie that is, of course the U.S. scenes were filmed there too. Anton Yelchin by the way is a younger CIA friend, who equally risks his career by assisting Lake. Why is never covered.
Nicolas Cage is trolling in this movie, which is the highlight of the show. You know what I mean, that Cage style of acting, where serious scenes deliberately but skillfully dance on that fine threshold between drama and farce. Indeed by the end/finale, the film descends into outright farce with Cage putting on a Romanian accent. I laughed out loud as Cage, posing as a Romanian, delivers a Jamaican accent, possibly deliberately, as he goes undercover. “There is something wrong wit dee toilet” possibly the movie’s best line.
Shrader swears that there used to be a good movie in here. Intuitively I think he’s right because this incarnation is really, really badly written, with Cage’s dementia subplot possibly causing uproar because of the way it’s handled, if people ever watch this movie in large numbers. But I doubt that’ll happen. To surmise, could’ve had potential. But don’t even watch for the Cage-isms.