The Nic Cage Jukebox 3: Pay the Ghost (2015 – Uli Edel)

Each week, one randomly selected film from Nicolas Cage’s career.  Hopefully we can begin to figure out exactly what he’s been up to all these years.

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There was a time when there were just bad films.  I mean, there were bad films that weren’t actually bad films, just hidden gems.  But the bad films were simply bad.  And now, with an astonishing level of phoniness, bad films have become ‘bad’ films.  The modern world is so drenched in insincerity, that bad films are there to be ‘enjoyed’ with a smug level of detachment that befits a generation indulged in the luxury of expressing their every thought, no matter how banal or moronic, into the social media sphere.  This level of irony is so prevalent, so unable to distinguish between actual levels of quality, that it makes attending a revival screening quite tense.  Seeing Body Double (1984 – Brian De Palma) in amidst the hipster elite of that London became almost nerve-wracking, so close did the audience come to laughing out loud at the romantic swirling and melodrama of De Palma’s camera.

Because this is a bad film.  It’s a film that ends on a shot of a terrible CGI vulture in some kind of half-arsed attempt at a twist ending.  The vulture has something to do with the eponymous ghost, but the predicament, and tension and plot of this film are extraordinarily ill-defined.  There are flittering moments when the film seems to shudder into life, such as when Nic Cage stumbles into what can only be described as a poundland recreation of the orgy in Eyes Wide Shut (1999 – Stanley Kubrick), but the film doesn’t even have the integrity to follow through (much like Tom Cruise…) and it turns out to be a red herring.

The most distracting thing is I became obsessed with the reality of your son suddenly coming back to life after having been missing for a year.  Just think of the gaps he’d have in school.  It would be impossible to ensure that child made progress.

The sickening thing is this film is simultaneously everything that people simplify Nic Cage films into and also nothing like these prejudices at all.  It’s both nonsensical and disposable and features Cage with some strangely distracting hair, but also he gives a performance of discreet dignity where the character’s love of Poe doesn’t dominate, and instead, he becomes a ghost himself, haunted by the loss of his son.  You can’t meme this film.  You can’t simplify and reduce it for a quick laugh.  His dedication and intelligence as an actor stand in bold defiance to the simple irony of the film culture he is appearing in.  He’s so capable, that he rises above the dross of a film like this.

Nicolas Cage Jukebox rankings:

 

  1. Lord of War
  2. Windtalkers
  3. Pay the Ghost

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