It’s tempting to just shove ‘The Wickerman‘ as an answer here, and waltz out the door, riding on a wave of completely undeserved internet meme-hood. Yes, The Wickerman is a showcase for Nick Cage going nuts, but that’s not why I love him. There are multiple reasons, but they all base themselves in one irrefutable fact, that exists purely for itself, and nothing else.
I love Nick Cage because why the hell not?
Hopefully that’s going to give you a basis for this whole argument. I say ‘why the hell not?’, because, really, there’s no one else out there doing what Nick Cage is doing. No one is hamming it up quite that much, pushing a role to its absurdist conclusion. There’s no basis for reality in the way he acts, nothing grounded in truth. Every character is a caricature, each one embellished and exaggerated to the degree where they’re no longer recognisable as ever being something human. They’re larger than life in a metaphysical sense, pulling in background characters and events in a vortex of ridiculousness around him. It doesn’t matter that everything he’s in becomes hijacked by his performance; that’s half the point.
We’ve got enough serious actors. We’ve got enough comedy actors. What Nicolas Cage is doing is melding the two with a straight face while never admitting quite how insane everything is. Wickerman is a good example; Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a better one. That’s a film as nuts as Cage, Herzog allowing him to kidnap the whole thing and run away with it, just so long as he’d please take this camera with him and record the whole thing, thankyaverymuch. Nick Cage gets paid to lose his shit. That’s what people expect from him. Sure, he’s been in dozens of god-awful films, but that’s the thing; sure they’re awful, but they’re never boring.
Even in a year that contains Black Swan, I think my favourite film of last year was Machete. It’s not particularly clever, but it’s having so much fun with fucking around with B-movie tropes that you can’t help but love it. And Danny Trejo plays the whole thing with a face that’s made of granite, and to which ‘straight’ isn’t so much a word as a way of life. It doesn’t matter that everytime he gets within three feet of a woman funk music starts blaring out in all directions, or that he can pull off a scene where he uses a man’s guts as a abseil while never breaking his grimace; the film revels in the absurd, and pulling it off even while everyone knows how ridiculous it is. The whole film is based around that, and it’s glorious because of it. Even though Nicolas Cage isn’t in the film, that’s the attitude I have towards him.
So when I’m walking through town and I see a big movie poster for a film called ‘Drive Angry‘, with Cage’s mulleted grimace on the front, I’m pretty much certain I’m going to watch it. Because every time the man narrows his eyes and looks pensive I laugh. Because every time he’s supposed to show emotion, he treats it like the last scene of his career. Because whenever he does an accent, he makes sure to have fifteen people do awful impressions for him, and then picks the worst to try and mimic. Because he’s batshit insane, and there’s a great big hole for batshit insane in modern film.