The Nic Cage Jukebox 4: Rumble Fish (1983 – Francis Ford Coppola)


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.



It must frustrate Stewart Copeland immensely that all his soundtracks sound like the noodling parts of a late-nineties Sting album.  There’s a tendency to point to Sting as the most irritating member of The Police – but watch/read any interview from their mid-2000 reunion, and you will see that Copeland is the most obnoxious man on the planet.  He claims The Police were his band (on a technicality), but he wrote precisely one good song across their five albums – Miss Gradenko – and even that isn’t as good as Oh My God (sample lyric = ‘Hello mister brontosaurus, don’t you have a lesson for us?’)

The laziest assumptions are applied the career of Nic Cage.  They assume that he acts in an absurd number of films without regard for their quality.  He performs in a manner which gives little consideration of realistic human behaviour.  That he is a product of nepotism.  That his hair is outrageous.  These assumptions characterise the most banal of television comedy sketches an internet meme; but even a cursory overview of his co-stars in Rumble Fish will indicated that he is far from alone in any of these qualities.  We’ll rate six of his fellow actors out of five in the following categories to assess whether they are a more mem-worthy movie star than Nic Cage himself.  (I’m getting increasingly frustrated that I have to do this; the more Cage films I see, the more an engaging, charismatic figure he appears to be.)


Matt Dillon:

I’ll do anything:  3 – Dillon would be higher, but his issue doesn’t seem to be whether he’s in a lot of films, it’s more whether any films want him to be in them.  Things are drying up for Matt Dillon, he’s had to resort to television acting, and the poster for the one movie he has directed tries to sell the picture on the locations used, rather than any talent involved.

I am a realistic actor: 2 – Nope, again probably due to lack of talent, rather than any conscious effort.  Dillon’s range doesn’t extend much further than ‘bit of a douche’.

Nepotism: 2 – whilst Dillon isn’t the product of nepotism, he does lose marks for being responsible for the career of his brother.

Hairline: 0 – Matt Dillon has pretty fucking beautiful hair.

Mickey Rourke:

I’ll do anything: 5 – bad.  Blew all his early success, has appeared in more than one erotic thriller, a terrible Iron Man sequel, and managed to blow the career renaissance he experienced after the success of The Wrestler.

I am a realistic actor: 3 – Rourke reaches for naturalism through the age-old trick of ‘mumbling’.

Nepotism: 0 – nothing to say.

Hairline: 4 – pretty bad, due to his insistence of having hair that is always long and greasy.  And now, silver.


Diane Lane:

I’ll do anything: 3 – we can’t judge Lane too harshly, because of Hollywood’s inherent sexism, but she’s gotta lose points for appearing in John Cusack romantic comedies.  Some consideration was given to her appearance in an erotic thriller – but it’s one of the good ones (Unfaithful).

I am a realistic actor: 3 – Lane learnt to rely on her natural charm fairly early on, and hasn’t sought to push herself out of it.

Nepotism: 2 – her father had some background in acting, but she appears to have done everything she could to succeed on her own terms.

Hairline: 0 – Diane Lane has pretty fucking great hair.

Laurence Fishburne:

I’ll do anything: 4 – fairly high, as Fishburne has slipped into being an ‘elder statesman’ position, where he will pop up in any old trash to add a degree of gravitas to some genre nonsense.

I am a realistic actor:  4 – I think he was, but honestly, the memory of John Wick: Chapter 2 is fresh in my mind.

Nepotism:  0 – admirably, Fishburne has made his own way.

Hairline: 3 – I’m actually punishing him here, as I don’t think he has been brave enough in his hair choices.

Dennis Hopper:

I’ll do anything: 5 – now this is high.  Hopper would appear in any old shit – and that would extend to documentaries, video games, television work (he very nearly took a guest role on Doctor Who).  Hell, Wikipedia has him appearing in thirteen different projects in 2008.

I am a realistic actor:  5 – never realistic, always obsessive and nervy and a thoroughly disconcerting screen presence, Hopper never aspired to realism.  However, we don’t care, because his freakishness is so well employed in The Last Movie and Blue Velvet.

Nepotism: 0 – Hopper does seem to have made it on his own.  It’s strange, that America, which prides itself on being a meritocracy, is so reliant on nepotism for success.

Hairline: 4 – I mean, I’m pretty sure he was wearing a wig for the last decade or so – his hairline does seem to have mysteriously lowered in that time.

Sofia Coppola:

I’ll do anything: 2 – or, I’ll do anything my dad makes for a decade or so.  After that, I’ll go on to be one of the most exciting filmmakers of the new millennium.  So, swings and roundabouts.

I am a realistic actor:  3 – I really don’t think it’s fair to judge her as an actress; it’s not really her interest any more, and it’s the subject of so many cheap jokes that I don’t really want to add to the chatter.

Nepotism: 5 – I mean it’s high (obviously), but then she also made The Bling Ring, which is easily one of the greatest films ever made.

Hairline: 0 – Sofia Coppola has pretty fucking wonderful hair.


So, Nic Cage’s career is just as weird and desperate as any other.  Not everyone can be Daniel Day-Lewis after all.

Nicolas Cage Jukebox rankings:


  1. Lord of War
  2. Rumble Fish
  3. Windtalkers
  4. Pay the Ghost

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