“Stolen”… Forgotten in 60 seconds

Has there been a more hard-working performer in Hollywood than Nicolas Cage, whose films no one sees? The actor – and he is an actor, even if he reminds us of the fact all too rarely, in trenchant works like Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation – appeared in four films in 2011 alone: Season of the Witch, Drive Angry, Trespass and Seeking Justice. Do you remember any of them? Cage, then, has become one of stars whose motivations are infinitely more interesting than the movies. Why does he do it? Is it just the money? Does he fly out East, every month, and hand over a suitcase filled with bills to a dun-suited mobster, in aid of long-standing gambling debts? Or is he the Hollywood approximation of a shark – if he stops moving, will something in him shrivel up and die? How can someone keep feasting on low-hanging fruit like Simon West’s Stolen?

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Entering the film, you expect that West, the low-rent auteur of such imperishable 4 a.m.-on-TV classics as Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, will at least keep things moving. As it turns out, that’s about the only thing he does. Stolen tells the story of a Creedence Clearwater Revival-loving thief (Cage), who completes an eight-year prison sentence and finds that his young daughter has been kidnapped by his maniacal former partner Vincent (Josh Lucas). This ground has been trodden so many times that all West has to do is follow the trail of Ransom or Taken, and exhort us to root for the father. Did I mention that the film is set in New Orleans, as Mardi Gras is underway? Cage trying to squeeze through heaving throngs, the villain using all that colour and atmosphere to make his getaways – the scenes practically write themselves. But there’s no wit, no pulse – nothing but dull proficiency.

It’s hard to decide what to be more exasperated about – all this waste, or the sight of a tired Cage trying to give an actual performance. Sitting nervously across his daughter, who blames him for abandoning her, he attempts to apologise for his past. He takes sips of water from a glass, whips out a piece of paper where he’s written a speech, and reads it out. The scene should have been heartbreaking, but the only heartbreak comes from Cage, whose drooping energy suggests that he realised, midway through the shot, that nothing he does can save this story. And can you imagine Josh Lucas as an incarnation of Robert de Niro’s psychopath from Cape Fear, prone to tattoos and terrifying quotes? (Like that film, this one features a watery climax involving a father, a daughter and the maniac keeping them apart.) An action film with a one-legged villain set on fire should have been way more fun.

An edited version of this piece can be found here.

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18 thoughts on ““Stolen”… Forgotten in 60 seconds

  1. We had someone before Mr. Cage – Satyaraj. A good , courageous actor turned into a B-movie “star” . Of course if you think harder – in the 90’s there was Prabhu ji.


  2. in the list of best but forgotton Cage performances i would put Lord of War at the top.very strong movie indeed.i feel it deserves its place on the list


  3. From what I heard, he had a bunch of debts to pay back (gambling debts) and so he agrees to whatever comes his way. Unfortunate.


  4. What I heard was he either made some bad investments or his accountant swindled him out of a chunk of moolah. About the only amazing thing about Cage is that his movies still get a cinema release and aren’t released direct-to-video to share shelf space with the latest Van Damme/Seagal/Steve Austin flicks. The pity is he makes so many movies that the odd entertaining or interesting film like Seeking Justice and Drive Angry go virtually unnoticed as they’re sandwiched between dreck like Season Of The Witch, The Sorcere’s Apprentice, Trespass, Ghost Rider and yeah…Stolen. And to think Simon West was also behind one of the most enetertaining Cage films I’ve seen, Con-Air. And let’s not forget West also helmed The Expendables 2 recently which was a blast. It’s all about the script. Can’t spin gold out of shit….


  5. I read it on the Internet as the reason for him picking virtually everything that came his way. It was not cited though, so you may take it with a grain of salt.


  6. I had read about some tax dues and also habit of extravagant spending/lifestyle. That could be one of the reasons.


  7. BR: This is not a secret – he lost a lot of money due to bad accountants and a spending habit that makes ze Ol MJ look a fiscally responsible adult.

    OTOH , Mr Robin Hood is back


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