The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): Cage goes wild again…

Nicholas Cage has been one of the most interesting actors working in Hollywood during last four decades, and there are good reasons for that. Sure, he appeared a bunch of bad films during several recent years just because of his difficult financial status, and he is understandably ridiculed and criticized a lot for that, but he has seldom phoned in his performance while always prepared for any interesting challenge for him. Yes, we all shook our heads as watching him appearing in crummy flicks like “Left Behind” (2014), but then, as shown from “Joe” (2013) and “Pig” (2021), he has always demonstrated that he is still a good actor to watch and enjoy.

In case of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”, Cage is often required to be quite silly and outrageous as its main target for comedy, and, not so surprisingly, he magnificently rises to the challenge for our entertainment. As deftly juggling many different comic elements hurled at him from here and there, he gives one of his better recent performances here in this film, and the movie cheerfully bounces along with him as generating many uproarious moments to be appreciated by millions of his fans and admirers out there.

The early part of the film quickly sets how things have been difficult for Cage’s fictionalized version in the story. Like many other performers in Hollywood, he tries hard to get good roles, but nobody is particularly interested in working with him due to his fading star status. Feeling quite frustrated and disillusioned, he accordingly begins to consider quitting his acting career for spending more time with his adolescent daughter, but he has been estranged from her for years, and he only comes to ruin her birthday party in front of her and others including his ex-wife.

And then there comes an odd offer via his agent, who is wryly played by Neal Patrick Harris. Some rich foreign guy named Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) wants Cage to spend some time with him just because of his birthday, and he offers no less than one million dollars. While naturally flabbergasted by this offer, Cage eventually accepts it mainly because he really needs to pay off a considerable amount of debt right now.

Cage subsequently arrives at a foreign area where Gutierrez’s big mansion is located, and he is soon greeted by Gutierrez, who turns out to be a huge fan of all those notable movies in Cage’s career. While the more famous ones including “The Rock” (1996) and “Con Air” (1997) are naturally mentioned, I must tell you that I laughed hard when Gutierrez later tell others about how he became closer to his recently diseased father via a certain forgotten comedy film in Cage’s career (No, it is not “Vampire’s Kiss” (1989)).

Although he does not regard his rich employer that highly at first, Cage comes to like Gutierrez more than expected as spending more time with Gutierrez. At one point, they happen to discuss about which is the greatest film of all time, and we surely get a big laugh when Gutierrez tries to persuade Cage to change his opinion on a certain popular film which is absolutely great in Gutierrez’s viewpoint (My opinion: this film in question may not be great, but it is quite likable to say the least).

Of course, as shown from the opening scene, the situation surrounding Cage and Gutierrez is a lot more serious than it seems on the surface. As a matter of fact, Cage was already approached by a couple of CIA agents played by Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish, and these agents expect him to extract some certain information from Gutierrez, who turns out to be on the top of a big criminal organization.

The screenplay by director Tom Gormican and his co-writer Kevin Etten comes to lose some of its comic momentum during the last act where the movie shifts itself on action mode, but Cage, who also served as one of its producers, ably keeps supporting the film while gleefully oscillating between absurdity and seriousness. In case of several comic where his character talks with an alter ego as wild as he was in “Wild at Heart” (1999), he surely has lots of fun as going back and forth between two different comic modes, and my only complaint is that they did not provide him that snake skin jacket from “Wild at Heart”.

Around Cage, several main cast members in the film have each own small fun, though they are relatively under-utilized in comparison. Pedro Pascal, who has been more prominent since his supporting turn in the fourth season of HBO TV drama series “Game of Thrones”, plays his character as earnestly as demanded, but I think he could be a little more menacing for extra laughs for us. In case of Haddish and Barinholtz, they surely know how to be funny as seasoned comedians, but they are often limited by their thankless supporting roles to my little dissatisfaction.

On the whole, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is an enjoyable showcase of Cage’s comic talent, which has unfortunately not been explored that often except a few notable cases including his brilliant Oscar-nominated turn in “Adaptation.” (2002). I have no idea on how he actually feels about his immense talent, but I can say that his talent has been a treasure for me and many other movie audiences for decades, and I am sure that he will keep entertaining us as before during this decade.

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