Rage (aka Tokarev) movie review: Nicolas Cage’s public mid-career crisis takes a pathetic turn

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Rage red light

Sporadically hilariously awful, but mostly cheap, amateurish and so distasteful it borders on the vile. Poor Nicolas Cage and his foundering career.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

At first I figured that it was only that Nicolas Cage had seen what Taken did for Liam Neeson — gave him a boost as a late-middle-aged badass action hero — and figured he’d get in on that. The premise here, after all, is this: Once-was mobster — that would be Cage’s Paul Maguire; it was the Irish mob — goes on the offensive after his teenaged daughter is kidnapped, apparently by some rival Russian mobsters he once pissed off. What could go wrong for a worn-out actor we’re all tired of seeing who is desperate to jump-start his career?

In fact, Rage is so far down the sad pit of Things Aging Movie Stars Do To Stay Relevant that it’s almost worth watching for how hilariously awful it is, if only sporadically. Mostly it’s amateurish and so distasteful it borders on the vile. Like how Maguire’s pals engage in random torture of a random innocent woman and then joke about it. We know they’re “good” guys because Maguire was gonna pay them $200K to help him find his daughter, but they’re such solid friends that they’re doing it all, torturing included, for free. It’s extra vile because this is one of those movies about how women are supposed to be off limits among these criminals, except when it’s “funny,” I guess.

As Cage (Joe, The Frozen Ground) goes about attempting to pump up his stardom, we’re left to ponder how he could end up in a movie so weirdly and awkwardly directed that every shot looks like a rejected take from a particularly bad episode of an 80s action TV show, but with less emotional heft. The whole endeavor is entirely tone deaf, and never more so than when it thinks its being wise and insightful. (There’s a lot of cringeworthy “wages of sin” type stuff here.) It’s crammed with terrible acting, including embarrassing turns from both Danny Glover (Alpha and Omega, Death at a Funeral), as the worst cop ever, and Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street, Pain and Gain) choking out the most hideous Irish accent ever, and not excluding a couple of incidences of histrionic Cage Rage that are almost beautiful in their terribleness. It’s cheap, too, the “city” of its unnamed setting so seemingly tiny that it doesn’t seem big enough to support one ethnic mob, never mind two. (Turns out Rage was shot in Mobile, Alabama, and I hasten to add that I do not mean to impugn a presumably fine city that may well be perfectly capable of supporting numerous respectable organized-crime syndicates. It’s just that here, the “city” appears to consist of three buildings that might have elevators, one strip club, a couple of alleys, and not much else.)

Perhaps the oddest, most distasteful thing of all is how director — I use the word loosely — Paco Cabezas manages to create, though probably only accidentally, a sense of violent nostalgia for Maguire’s past life in a story that ultimately is meant as a cautionary tale about what happens when you’re in the mob and bring your work home with you. Slo-mo car explosions filtered through hazy memory seem rather inappropriate in such a context.

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Robert P
Robert P
Fri, Jul 18, 2014 3:10am

I’ve never understood why Cage has had as much success as he’s had. I guess he’s been in a couple of films where his basic persona fit but never really thought he was much of an actor.

Can anyone point to a film where you really thought he actually displayed good acting chops?

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Robert P
Fri, Jul 18, 2014 3:19am

Adaptation, Leaving Las Vegas, and even Matchstick Men, although it certainly wasn’t a great film.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Danielm80
Fri, Jul 18, 2014 12:35pm

First saw him in a horror-comedy film called Vampire’s Kiss. I actually don’t remember if the film was any good (though I understand it’s a cult film now), but I do remember being struck by Cage’s amazingly weird performance. If nothing else, the cockroach scene is burned into my brain, and convinced me of his ability to totally commit to a part. Very, very different from the action roles he’s been doing of late.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  Robert P
Fri, Jul 18, 2014 3:23am

Birdy, Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona, Bringing Out the Dead, Lord of War.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Robert P
Fri, Jul 18, 2014 8:46am

He’s a really great *actor.* The problem is that he has been trying to be a movie star.

He’s hilarious in *Raising Arizona* and *Peggy Sue Got Married.* He’s painfully (in a good way) poignant in *Adaptation.* And he’s sharp and satiric in *Lord of War.*

RogerBW
RogerBW
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Jul 24, 2014 4:02pm

Mmyeah, but when did he last do a really great job of acting? I know that the best actor in the world can look like a talentless hack with the wrong script, but he’s been taking an awful lot of nothing but the wrong script lately.

David
David
Fri, Jul 18, 2014 5:59am

Here’s a funny video of how he picks his roles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eExfV_xKaiM

Will
Will
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 7:02pm

Damn. I thought this was a negative review of Sally Potter’s film and I wanted to know why it had a red light. Dates should have been a giveaway I guess.

Hard Little Machine
Hard Little Machine
Sun, Sep 14, 2014 10:15pm

This should have been called “Pay Off the IRS in 60 Seconds IV”

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
Thu, Sep 18, 2014 6:42pm

I just saw that Nicholas Cage is in the movie of Left Behind!!!!

rotflmao

Red Sailor
Red Sailor
Wed, Oct 08, 2014 5:58am

This movie was exceptionally poor in every respect. It is bad enough that California raised Cage always adopts that phony southern accent which sounds like a bad impersonation of Elvis Presley’s speaking voice. Now he has taken to mumbling his lines throughout this film so much so that you needed the volume way up to decipher what was being said. Danny Glover compounded the films audio problems by barely whispering his lines. What a useless pair of actors..

iakobos
iakobos
Wed, Oct 15, 2014 6:31pm

I steamed this on Netflix recently and was looking for a movie that was so bad it was good. It’s really a bad movie for all the reasons MaryAnn states. And yet it’s so silly and overblown there is still entertainment value to be found in this movie that takes its self way too seriously with a plot and script that is totally half baked.