Review: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

A book review that appeared in Harper’s about a year ago analyzed the movies of Nicolas Cage as a kind of literary exercise, and while the critic who tackled this assignment was careful to keep his tongue firmly in cheek he didn’t say anything about this particular movie, in which Cage plays himself as a figure of derision. The movie almost does a better job of placing Cage’s unusual career in context, but not quite. My understanding has always been that Cage does so many movies because he has so many debts, but according to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Cage can’t help but overextend himself because his ego won’t let him stop. In the opening scenes, “Nick” Cage is trying to secure the lead in a movie by the director David Gordon Green (playing himself, presumably) that he anticipates will be a comeback of sorts, though his therapist wonders what he’s coming back from, since he seems to be working all the time. Here, Cage and the film’s writer-director, Tom Gormican, are clearly sending up Cage’s career in schlock, since he’s hoping to regain the artistic cachet he enjoyed in the 1990s. In any case, Cage overplays his hand by pestering Green to no end, all the while talking to himself via split personality that reveals his total lack of confidence, an observation that’s reinforced by his agent Richard’s (Neil Patrick Harris) total indifference.

Upon losing out on the part, Cage vows to quit acting but takes one last desperate job for a million bucks to appear at a birthday party for a billionaire Spanish fan, Javi (Pedro Pascal), who, unbeknownst to Cage, is associated with a European drug cartel that may have kidnapped the daughter of a politician. When Cage shows up for the gig, the CIA, who is watching Javi, recruits Cage to be a mole. But as it turns out, Javi isn’t the evil drug baron most people might expect; he’s actually at the beck-and-call of his family, who are evil, and just wants to write a kick-ass action flick. That’s why he invited Cage, to see if he can sell his screenplay in Hollywood. The two get on like gangbusters.

So what promised to be a Hollywood satire poking fun at one of the most unusual careers a bona fide movie star has ever enjoyed essentially turns into the kind of low-rent, direct-to-video potboiler that Cage is often accused of stooping to star in. And while those who really like Cage for his characteristic OTT performances will appreciate the way “Nick” Cage does Liam Neeson better than Liam Neeson (there’s even a fictional wife and daughter who are placed in peril), the movie is short on laughs and suspense. The Harper’s article was way more exciting. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Kadokawa Cinema Yurakucho (03-6258-0015), Shinjuku Piccadilly (050-6861-3011), Shibuya Cine Quinto (03-3477-5905).

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2022 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.

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