Whether he’s in full-throttle action mode or delivering the drama, Nicolas Cage is an actor known for bringing an unrivalled intensity to his roles. His latest feature Looking Glass is no different, mixing thriller and action elements and serving up plenty of classic Cage.
In the film, couple Ray (Nicolas Cage) and Maggie (Robin Tunney, The Craft) are shattered after losing their daughter in a tragic accident. They purchase a motel in the middle of nowhere in the hope of starting a new life. Once there, Ray begins to notice strange goings-on and starts to piece together a seeming history of violence and murder associated with the motel.
Poking around in a basement one day, Ray discovers a crawl space, which leads to a two- way mirror into one of the rooms. As he becomes obsessed with the unusual activities that happen beyond the looking glass, his marriage, sanity and his life are threatened.
Having enjoyed a lengthy career that has seen him become a bona fide action star in films like Con Air, Face/Off and The Rock, along with working under some of the most respected directors in the world, like the Coen Brothers, Francis Ford Coppola, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese and more, Nicolas Cage has huge amounts of movie-stealing scenes under his belt.
Raising Arizona (1987)
Cage’s performance as the not so bright career criminal H.I. in the Coen brother’s screwball comedy Raising Arizona is one of his best. One the finest comedies of all time, it moves at a fast pace and features one of the greatest chase scenes too. After sticking up a convenience store for a pack of Huggies and ‘Whatever cash you’ve got’, H.I gets caught in a brilliant chase involving a pack of neighbourhood dogs, a second supermarket run, mad police and an irate wife (Holly Hunter). Raising Arizona showed the world that Cage had charm, comedic chops and a broad acting range. It has many standout scenes, but some of Cage’s subtler moments are his best here. But overall this is a wild film that he anchors and it’s very hard not to fall in love with it.
Wild at Heart (1990)
If you’ve ever wondered how to start a film, Nicolas Cage shows us in Lynch’s classic, warped Romeo and Juliet style road movie Wild at Heart. It features Cage and Laura Dern as Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune. Both on the run from a jealous and domineering mother (Diane Ladd) hellbent on murder. No sooner than the opening credits have faded from the screen do we see Bobby Ray Lemon (Gregg Dandridge) approach Sailor Ripley and attempt to kill him with a switchblade. The gentle sounds of Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’ suddenly give way to the furious speed metal of Powermad. In a flurry of brutal violence, Sailor proceeds to beat Bobby Ray Lemon, throw him against a wall, bash his head into a handrail and lob him down a huge set of stairs. He then finishes the job by whacking his head into the floor until his brains spill out. Knowing that Cage is also a martial arts practitioner in real life, we’re not sure we would mess with him after watching this scene. Intense is an understatement.
Con Air (1997)
In 1997’s Con Air we see Cage in full action mode. It follows the story of Cameron Poe an ex- Army Ranger being flown home to his family after serving time in prison for manslaughter. Of course, he’s on board a plane filled with dangerous convicts. As Poe says, ‘They somehow managed to get every creep and freak in the universe onto this plane. And then somehow managed to let them take it over. And then somehow managed to stick us smack in the middle.’ The film is a relentless marathon of mayhem, violence, pyrotechnics, over the top stunts and bizarre scenes featuring a fluffy toy bunny. Cage also delivers some ridiculous, quotable one-liners. So, pretty much everything you want from an action film. You could say that all of Con Air is intense. But the final chase scene on a fire truck through the streets of Las Vegas might be its crowning glory, featuring motorcycles, high-speeds, inexplicable flames and explosions, as well as even more one liners. It then culminates with John Malkovich’s evil character flying through a building, into live electricity wires and surviving, only to have his head flattened by an industrial pile driver. Cage saves the day.
Cage somehow managed to feature in another classic actioner with John Woo’s mental 1997 feature Face/Off. Infamously appearing alongside John Travolta (back in the blockbuster movie scene following Pulp Fiction’s success) the action extravaganza allowed both actors to play to the crowd with the body swap mannerism imitations and consistent melodrama. The intense interpersonal vengeance plotline was backed up by some of the most wild and kinetic action of the 90s. Speedboats, doves and actors fly across the screen as various things explode. But the biggest takeaway is how good Nic Cage is here as both the villain and hero, as he gives us a wild version of Travolta plus some very memorable scenes. Cage steals the show here and he’s going to take your… face… off! Hallelujah!
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Neither straight up action or over the top comedy, Bad Lieutenant sees Cage performing at his inventive and intense best in Werner Herzog’s now cult crime drama. You would be hard pressed to find a character more sickeningly immoral than the corrupt, drug addled, murdering, rapist cop Terrence McDonagh. He is truly awful. And Cage is not afraid to give the performance everything at his disposal. Despite its unwieldy name – and although it shares the name and characteristics of the 1992 Harvey Keitel film – this is neither a remake, nor a sequel. Cage roams the streets of a devastated post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans a law unto himself. We see McDonagh smoking crack through his ‘lucky crack pipe’, hallucinating iguanas and alligators, threatening wealthy old ladies with his 44 Magnum. It is both hilarious and disturbing at once. “Shoot him again. His soul’s still dancing.” It’s a must see.
Kick Ass (2010)
Kick Ass is an ultra-violent, comic book inspired action film directed by Matthew Vaughan. It features Cage as ex-police officer Damon McCready and his Batman-esque superhero alter- ego ‘Big Daddy’. The film is packed with great fight scenes and action throughout. However, potentially the most intense scene is also the first to feature Damon and his 11-year old daughter Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz). Like many of Cage’s films, this scene certainly pushes the boundaries of acceptability. The camera cuts to Mindy, who, appearing innocently in a pink jacket and woolly hat asks, ‘Is it going to hurt bad’? After a short back and forth about the speed at which a bullet from a handgun travels (700 miles an hour), Damon shouts, ‘You’re gonna be fine baby doll!’ before shooting her in the chest. The bullet sends her flying across the screen. Only after the tiny Mindy gets up does the viewer realise that she’s wearing a bulletproof vest.