By Sean Boelman
Nicolas Cage has proven himself to be one of the most productive actors working in Hollywood today, cranking out at least four movies a year since 2015. Granted, many of these films are little more than schlocky B-movies, but that is exactly why his filmography is so intriguing. Cage has gained a massive cult following thanks to his enjoyably over-the-top performances and his unorthodox acting style.
In 2019, Cage appeared in five films and lent his voice to the narration of one documentary. That documentary, Love, Antosha (a love letter to the late actor Anton Yelchin), is not included in this list. Instead, only his five narrative performances, all in straight-to-VOD thrillers, are ranked below. Cage is showing no sign of slowing down, and this year is quite possibly his weirdest one yet. (Note: the ratings below indicate evaluations of Cage’s performance, not the film as a whole.)
5. Running with the Devil
Perhaps his most “normal” performance of the year is his turn in Running with the Devil, a crime thriller written and directed by Jason Cabell. In the film, Cage plays a high-level player in a drug operation that is sent down the line to figure out where the supply is being cut. The film as a whole isn’t very good because the mystery in the story is ruined in the first half hour, but this is also the only underwhelming Cage performance of the year. The actor is playing against type in this film as the straight man, his co-star Laurence Fishburne getting to play the more off-the-walls character. As a result, this film largely feels like a waste of Cage’s talents.
Rating: 1/5 Stolen Constitutions
4. Kill Chain
Cage’s performance in the action-thriller Kill Chain is also a lot more subdued than many of the others he has given in the past, although it is much better than his aforementioned turn in Running with the Devil. In this film, Cage plays a retired mob goon turned hotel owner who becomes wrapped up in a conflict. The story is convoluted, and it takes a long time for Cage’s character to throw himself in the mix, but once he does, Cage steals the screen. Ultimately, the performance is just about as forgettable as the film itself, but the role does have a few moments in which it allows Cage to let loose his craziness.
Rating: 2/5 Children Kidnapped
3. A Score to Settle
The revenge thriller A Score to Settle does allow Cage some room to get a bit weird, but he is held back at times by a generic script. The film follows Cage’s recently released ex-convict as he sets out to get revenge on those who imprisoned him wrongfully. Admittedly, Cage’s performance in this is pretty much the same one he has given in most of his recent B-movies, but that doesn’t keep it from being enjoyable. What stands out about this film is Cage’s chemistry with his co-star Noah Le Gros, who plays his son. It is very enjoyable to watch them chew the scenery together.
Rating: 2.5/5 Hijacked Planes
2. Grand Isle
With his turn in the erotic mystery-thriller Grand Isle, Cage delivers what is possibly the weirdest performance on this list. Here Cage portrays a homeowner with sinister intentions that lures a young man into his home to escape a hurricane. Cage is truly off the walls in this film, dialing into the lunacy of the script in an extremely entertaining way. The dialogue features a large amount of sexual innuendos, and Cage delivers them in a way that is often hilarious. With anyone else in Cage’s role, the film would have just been stupid, but Cage’s performance elevates the film to the lovably bonkers B-movie that it hopes to be.
Rating: 3.5/5 Faces Off
Undoubtedly Cage’s best performance of 2019 is his turn in Primal, an action-horror-thriller directed by Nick Powell. Cage’s character is a wildlife dealer who finds himself caught in a battle between the exotic animals he is transporting and a dangerous assassin who is being taken to trial on the same boat. The story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s absolutely bonkers in the way only a Nic Cage movie could be. Cage’s character is certainly pretty confusing, but it allows him to spit out one-liners and participate in some CGI-heavy action scenes for an hour and a half, so who’s complaining? This is exactly what fans want from a B-movie Nic Cage performance.
Rating: 4/5 White Jags
Fans need not worry, because Cage looks to be keeping at it for the new decade. In 2020 comes the release of Color Out of Space, an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation that received great reviews out of TIFF 2019, and six more movies in various stages of development. Even though 2019 was a bit all over the place for Cage, it offered a few memorable roles for him, and one can only hope that 2020 does the same!
Dedicated to unique and diverse perspectives on cinema!