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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Released 2022. Director: Tom Gormican

THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT IS A FLAMING LOVE LETTER to Nicolas Cage, a rollicking action comedy to celebrate the alternately standout and dismal achievement in the erratic filmography of Nicolas Cage. It’s also delightful and easy to enjoy whether you’re a fan of the actor or not.

Nicolas Cage plays Nicolas Cage, a fictionalised version of himself, an actor troubled that his star is on the wane. So sure of snagging his next big role, Nick is crestfallen when he’s passed over (the director has decided to take the movie “in another direction” – we know what that means). Nick contemplates retirement but accedes to a million-dollar appearance at some rich dude’s birthday bash in Mallorca.

Upon his arrival, Nick is promptly enlisted to be a mole by a CIA agent (Tiffany Haddish, whose comic talent is under-utilised). The party host, Javi Gutierrez, is suspected to be the kingpin in the Spanish mafia who has kidnapped the daughter of a local politician. Nick, struggling with a gnawing despair brought on by a career slump, must hold it together to carry out his spy work undetected.

Javi, played by Pedro Pascal in a nonchalant and inscrutable manner in the early scenes, is hiding the fact that he’s a crazily devoted fan who quite literally worships Nicolas Cage in an elaborately curated shrine at his sprawling mansion.

In order to remain on the island to locate the kidnapped girl, Nick pretends to be interested in working out a new movie idea with Javi. They talk filmmaking techniques and hatch a storyline about a friendship between two men and how they will not let their movie slide into action genre clichés.

Meanwhile, the movie itself begins to tumble down the path they so object to. Before long, the action quotient quickly piles up, with lots of running, shouting, car chase, hostage drama and flying bullets. The meta-referencing and irony echo another Cage movie, Adaptation. Not only does Cage play two characters of contrasting personalities in both movies, they are also built on characters hanging on to the lofty ideals of creating a thoughtful drama before self-consciously and giddily giving in to genre tropes.

The genius of the script by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten is its ability to thread various Cage personas into an amalgam. Nicolas Cage the insecure movie star, the distracted husband, absent father and the nimble action hero. Self-deprecation is a skill Cage puts to good use. Any movie-star ego the man may possess is kept in check while he sends himself up and runs with it, having an absolute blast. While the movie morphs from character-focused to action-oriented, Nick’s personas evoke iconic moments and quotations through his body of work, from loser to hero, fearless to crazy, exaggerated to sly. Some of the best scenes are Nick engaging with his alter-ego, a younger, brash and scenery-chewing Nikki who embodies the signature “Cage Rage” in hilarious fashion.

Nick and Javi – or Cage and Pascal – together is really the heart of the movie. Their buddy rapport and chemistry keeps the momentum rolling without trying hard to impress or pointing out how clever the movie gets. There’s a scene where the two men are chased and forced to climb over a high wall. Even when the moment indulges in silly comedy there’s plenty of affection and respect for the characters, a rarity in action movies.




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