Like the end of the month itself, we close July with a Nic Cage performance so intense it will melt children's popsicles if they sit too close to the screen. In 1993, we finally got an encore performance of a Coppola directing an Estevez, in the grand tradition of Apocalypse Now and, uh... The Outsiders. It's... not great.
The film starts with a drug deal while the narrator (Michael Biehn) talks about "marks." Shockingly enough, it turns out to be an elaborate and confusing con. The narrator's father (James Coburn), is accidentally killed and his right-hand man Pete (Peter Fonda) advises narrator Joe to get out of town. If you can't trust Peter Fonda, who can you trust? Joe decides to avenge his father by tracking down his long lost Uncle Lou (James Coburn).
He finds his way to a cafe when a local madman Eddie (Nicolas Cage) shows him a card trick. Despite apparently suffering from a speech impediment or learning disability, this madman is actually Lou's right hand man, and introduces him to Lou, who, shockingly enough, is the exact duplicate of Joe's father. Eddie takes Joe out for a night on the town running classic cons, but Eddie's jealousy goes out of control and he tries to get Joe killed by a strip club owner named Baby. Unfortunately the plan backfires and Joe becomes friends with Baby and proves his worth to Lou. As if that weren't enough, Eddie's girlfriend/scam partner Diane (Sarah Trigger) comes to Joe's hotel and seduces him, although it's made painfully clear that all is not as it seems.
Joe attends Uncle Lou's birthday party where he meets Lou's wife Betty Boop, I mean Blanche (Gigi Rice) and ingratiates himself further into the man's operations. Meanwhile Eddie goes to the strip club, where he learns that he had been conned by Joe. His response? To shout "Fuck" about 20 times then karate chop someone. It's pretty great. He then survives an attack from an assassin disguised as a homeless man.
Eddie then goes absolutely nuts, threatening Diane and deciding to try to murder Lou, blaming him for the botched hit. Joe saves the day, causing Eddie's wig to fall off before shoving his face into a fryer. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is Nicolas Cage free.
Joe gets sucked into doing a rehash of the over-complicated con we saw at the beginning of the movie and starts to feel like someone's pulling the strings. And obviously they are, because this is a con movie and what good would it be if there weren't two or three ridiculous swerves before we get a super predictable ending?
The film in general is not very good, and was probably deservedly ignored by critics and fans when it was released. But Cage's mega-acting tries like hell to save every scene he's in. While this style might distract from something good, it takes something bland like this and elevates it; kind of the reverse of Matchstick Men, where his spazzy over-acting distracted from Alison Lohman and Sam Rockwell's awesomeness and a strong script. Here, he is a splash of color on an old-time-y photograph. His presence is so much greater that for some reason he gets his face centered on the posters, even though he's a supporting character. It probably also helps that nobody remembers who Michael Biehn is (he was the boring time traveler in Terminator) and Cage's brother is the director.
This movie's also notable for the sheer amount of crazy involved in the project. From Cage's legendary antics on-screen and off, to a brief appearance of noted crazy person Charlie Sheen, to Sheen's "Two and a Half Men" co-star Jon Cryer's ex-wife Sarah Trigger, who is perhaps just as crazy as the two men based on her mug shot taken in connection with an arrest under suspicion of felony child neglect. The film is sort of a perfect storm of genuine insanity. Unfortunately, only Cage's insanity manifests itself into anything constructive. Sheen just wears a smoking jacket and does his cool guy routine, and Trigger is one of those British actors who is visibly devoting half their brain to maintaining a generic American accent, and what's left is pretty forgettable.
1 CageHead out of 3
Lou: You could learn a lot from just... watching people.
Eddie: I'm not gettin' off! I'm not gettin' off!
Diane: Jesus Christ Eddie you're disgusting with that shit!
Eddie: I'm not gettin' off! (Laughs hysterically)
Lou: What is this Eddie?
Eddie: "Oh what is this Eddie" that's good... that's a good poker-face- PICK A CARD!
Eddie (to Lou): You wanna fuck? Eh? You wanna fuck?! We fuck now!
Morgan "Fats" Gripp: One of the rare occasions where one... plus one... equals one.