1993 Coppola film

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Joe accidentally kills his own father and partner in con during a scam. His father's last words hint that his twin brother, an Uncle Lou that Joe didn't even know about, may have stolen from him years earlier. "My brother took the cake. My brother took the cake." Bleh sound. Blood spit. Dead. When Joe travels to meet Uncle Lou and see about fulfilling his father's last wishes, he meets his Cousin Eddy and gets wrapped up in a dangerous con game.

OK, it's not that Coppola. It's those Coppolas, assuming you're willing to count one Nicolas Cage as a Coppola. More on him in a minute. Director Christopher Coppola proves that sometimes the apple can fall very very far away from the tree with this inept piece of filmmaking that he wrote and directed. Sure, he gives you enough neo-noir twists and turns to keep you guessing, but there are some genuinely head-scratching moments and maybe even ball-scratching moments that made me suspect this was actually some genius black comedy. Exhibit A: a scene with a lobster claw. Exhibit B: the acting, which just can't be this bad accidentally considering you've got some talented people involved. James Coburn gets to be not all that good twice. Charlie Sheen brings his tiger's blood and Adonis DNA to a very small role as a pool shark. The weakest link in this rusty chain of a movie is probably Michael Biehn, uninspired as the noir anti-hero. The narration is especially bad, but it brings up an important question--is it the chicken bad script or the egg bad acting that's the problem? My best guess is that it's a combination of both. This also suffers from a constant barrage of string music that really got on my nerves.

But then we come to what makes this movie worth watching and, along with the abysmal The Room, one of the funniest things I've seen in a long, long time: a deliriously unhinged Nicolas Coppola. I've seen Cage performances where he spends large portions of the movie unglued (Bad Lieutenant) or movies where he's just terrible (The Wicker Man) and movies where he's a little of both. Ghost Rider? But I don't have any idea how to describe this. And I'm not sure why Christopher Coppola allowed him to play his character this way with some really odd wardrobe choices that Cage apparently picked out himself, this weird mumbly accent thing, and the most over-the-top line delivery I have ever seen. When Cage is on the screen, you completely forget about the story and the other characters. It almost feels like you're watching a normal movie, say a really bad remake of Double Indemnity or something, and Cage barges into your house, smashes your television with a sledge hammer, and then starts dancing in your living room. He's like the class clown of the movie, distracting from what the teacher's trying to do, and I really wonder if he wanted his brother (I think?) to fail and did it all on purpose. I think it's got to have something to do with drugs though because a Nic Cage freak out of these proportions can't happen organically. I've often written about a Nic Cage movie having a Nic Cage moment or two. This is bursting with Nic Cage moments--the macho waving of the "We're Number One" hand signal, the triple fuck delivered when his car won't start, the rapid hollering of classic lines like "What am I? A fucking retard, man? Huh?", the inexplicable weird sidewalk dance that he does in one scene, the raw delivery of a normally innocuous line like "Would you like a piece of gum?" that transforms it into something really menacing, the way he drinks from a beer bottle after this unnatural dancing gait he uses to perambulate a strip joint, his snorting laugh, the longest fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck I think I've ever heard in a movie, his overuse of what I guess was a catchword of some kind ("Mommy"), the overall cadence, scenes where his voice changes into this high-pitched whine, "OK, baby girl. . . who sent ya?", a moment when he screams that somebody tried to kill him and follows it with an angry karate kick, the Tasmanian Devil growls he makes as he cries and humps a bed. It's mayhem, but career-defining mayhem if Nic Cage wants to be known as the most insane actor of all time. It's really a performance that has to be seen in order to be believed. Even then, you probably won't believe it. It'll make you say "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!" though.

No comments: