"Man, you could have saved us all a lot of aggravation."
Is it a sin to say I actually liked this movie? I don't think it is. Once upon a time Joel Schumacher was a good director. He made one of the ultimate 80s movies The Lost Boys, and at least three other very good movies: Falling Down, Flatliners & Tigerland. Granted he's made a lot of shit, too: 8MM, Phantom of the Opera, two pretty bad John Grisham adaptations, that nonsense The Number 23 & the two worst Batman movies ever made. But he knows how to make a good movie, he just doesn't seem to want to very often.
Now, there's a lot of ridiculous nonsense in this movie, but that's to be expected from a suspense thriller starring everyone's favorite lunatic Nicolas Cage. There's a winking obviousness to a lot of Cage's oeuvre, and this film is no exception. He always seems to be in on the joke. Shit, there's a lot of credibility both in front of and behind the camera on this thing, so it's not like everyone got together to make a steaming pile of shit. Brian DePalma's editor Bill Pankow did the editing, Andrzej Bartkowiak shot it (he also shot The Verdict, Prizzi's Honor & Speed) and Oscar winning producer Irwin Winkler was one of about a dozen producers. These are not people out to waste time or money.
The film tells the story of Kyle and Sarah Miller (Cage & Nicole Kidman), a well-to-do family living in a big house in the middle of nowhere. Kyle seems to be a big shot something-or-other, wheeling and dealing in diamonds. One night, some robbers break into their home to steal some of these diamonds.
They've been scouting the family for a while and they come in, take them hostage and demand diamonds and/or cash that they presume is in the house. The revelations and twists to the plot are actually worth preserving, so I'll actually put a spoiler embargo in place. Don't read the next two paragraphs until you've seen the film, I think you'll enjoy it more if you don't know the twists and turns.
So, here's what I liked about it, and debate me on it if you found it ridiculous. I liked that everyone was motivated by something and that those motivations drove their decisions very concisely throughout. I saw the film twice before writing my review just to make sure that the filmmakers were smart enough to sow the seeds throughout and it's surprisingly well done. Elias' motivation to protect his brother whom he thinks is loyal to him, supersedes even his own fear of Ty and the drug dealers he's into all that money for. He's loyal to a fault, and I actually really wanted to hate the actor because he's so over-the-top in the early goings, but it's actually an incredibly effective performance and character. His girlfriend was a moron, but she too is motivated by getting her daughter back, and it makes sense why she takes time watching their home movies while the robbery is going on. It's actually god damned clever and surprised me on my second viewing.
Cage is full-tilt here. His early negotiating before the safe is open is vintage Cage. He's unhinged in the best way possible, chewing up all the scenery in sight, and then as he loses his leverage, he scales back his performance beautifully, underplaying everything while the actors around him are all melting down. It's ridiculous how much he commits to this thing. Kidman is also very good, and she can run hot and cold, but here she gives a measured performance that builds to the revelation that she never actually slept with that dude. The daughter was also very good, I thought, and was able to keep pace with her parents.
Okay, so this might be the biggest surprise of my blog so far. I rented this fully expecting it to be awful. I mean, how couldn't it be? It bombed in theaters, broke the old record for shortest time between theaters and video (18 days) and features a lot of talent known recently for making garbage. I think it's the script that made the film so good. The writer's name is Karl Gajdusek and the only other thing on his resume is some episodes of the defunct Showtime series Dead Like Me. I'm a firm believer that if you get a competent director, solid actors, and a great script, it can lead to a great result, and that's just what we get here. It's trash, but it's grade A trash.
This is an A+ B-Movie, if that makes sense. It won't win any awards, but it deserves a place in any film lover's collection alongside Suicide Kings, Boondock Saints, Shoot 'em Up, & The Devil's Advocate. I will end up owning this movie, I just know it, and I'll be pleased to lend it to people and give them a pleasant surprise.
Don't expect this to be award-caliber stuff, just expect a fun, twisty thriller and enjoy yourself as much as the actors on screen are enjoying fucking with you. You want to hate it, but you won't. And by the second viewing, you might end up loving it.