In a world of superheroes, cinematic universes, sequels, prequels, sidequels, and reboots, Nicolas Cage is his own intellectual property. Constantly working, making an on-the-cheap genre film one month, and a sensitive actor showcase the next, one cannot say that Cage hasn’t kept it interesting these 40 years since he burst on the film scene.
He’s an Oscar-winning actor, but he’s also known for his patented style of performance that could be considered over the top. And while, yes, some of the films he’s chosen to make haven’t been great, Cage shows up, does the work, and never gives a role anything less than his full attention.
Unexpectedly, this has started to bear cinematic fruit in recent years. The films have gotten better – or at least, Cage has elevated many of them. Last year’s Pig should have gotten him nominated again, as a chef living with his pig out in the wilderness who is spurred to action when the pig gets stolen. Pig isn’t the movie that it seems to be at first blush; it’s a quiet contemplation of grief and loss, and Cage’s work there is exemplary.
On the genre front, Cage is brilliantly unhinged in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, a kind of horror revenge masterpiece as Cage dispatches leather-bound demons with a chainsaw. Both very different roles, and yet Cage finds the sweet spot in both. Cage does that a lot lately.
So along comes The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, ostensibly an examination of Nicolas Cage’s career in the guise of an action-comedy. But the film doesn’t ruminate too deeply into any inner conflict that Cage might have about the highs and lows of his career. In fact, if you were to ask him, I imagine Cage would be satisfied with how his career turned out, his financial troubles notwithstanding.
He’s played some interesting roles, and had fun doing them, stretching as an actor and bringing something different to every part he’s chosen. If anyone is expecting any deep soul-searching in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, they should probably change those expectations; this isn’t a heavy movie. It’s a fun one. If there’s any commentary about the state of cinema today and Cage’s place in it, it’s contextual. This movie’s about having a good time.
Nick Cage (Nicolas Cage) is looking for the next great movie role, but he seems to be coming up short. He’s got bills to pay, his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) wants Cage to spend more time trying to get to know his daughter Abby (Lily Sheen) except that Cage keeps foisting his own tastes onto her, and his agent Richard (Neil Patrick Harris) has something of a demeaning offer for him.
A wealthy arms dealer in Spain, Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) is a huge fan and offers Cage a million dollars to come to his birthday party. Needing the money and distraught over his career, Cage accepts.
But Javi may not be what he seems — while he and Cage get along famously, Javi may have secrets of his own — the president’s daughter has been kidnapped to force him to drop out of the upcoming election, and Javi may be responsible.
Cage is enlisted by CIA agents Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz) to find the president’s daughter and stop Javi. Can Cage get to her in time? Is Javi the villain everyone thinks he is?
It helps that Cage seems to be having a ball, poking fun at himself yet still acknowledging that his films over the years are ripe for satire. But the real reason to see The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is to see Cage and Pedro Pascal have one of the best bromances in recent years. Their chemistry together is palpable, and inject Massive Talent with much of its humor.
They are a joy to watch together, whether just hanging out and talking movies (“’Paddington 2′ made me want to become a better man”), jumping off rock cliffs, or getting stoned and talking about Javi’s screenplay. Every moment that Cage and Pascal share the screen is terrific, and I would be first in line for any buddy films they do in the future, whether it’s a sensitive drama or an action film. They are worth the price of admission.
The movie is silly, but intentionally so, in a good way that satisfies. Director Tom Gornican keeps things tight and moving (for a film with such a long title, it is blissfully under two hours, without much bloat). The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a hangout movie. It simply wants to entertain, and if you get more from the subtext, all the better.
Is Nicolas Cage (“Nick Cage” in the film, one starts to think that this movie may not be an entirely accurate portrayal of the real Nicolas Cage) making commentary on the state of film today? A little bit. But Cage’s name to a project still adds weight – if he’s interested, that means there’s something more there than selling tickets, and Cage still carries clout.
I admire how Cage’s name to a film still gets films made, and gives people careers – Pig, for example, was Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut, and that movie would not have gotten made had Cage not been a part, and the world would be lesser for it.
If The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is simply a celebration of Nicolas Cage’s career, well, it’s a career worth celebrating, in my opinion. This is a very entertaining film.
THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT REVIEW SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10
Lionsgate will release The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent in theaters on April 22, 2022. The film is rated R for language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and violence.