A solitary figure trudges down a dark tunnel. Behind him, his entire life - his entire career - lies stripped and naked for all to see and judge. Ahead, both the proverbial light and music await him. As he takes each successive step, alone and in the dark, he thinks back over all the people he has been. All the identities he has assumed. Some lauded, some mocked, some so bat-shit insane they came to define him and, ultimately, destined him to walk down this very tunnel. As he nears the end, he hears the noise of the crowd. The clamor, like a bitter cocktail, is a mix raucous cheers and boisterous judgment. His ears drink it down like a condemned man at his last meal. The taste is sweet, yet fleeting, for soon nothing will taste anymore. His life has been a series of stories, characters, and haircuts which have all led him to this place.
He steps into the light and noise of the crowd intensifies. He manages the star's smile and wave. The din of the crowd persists but for a moment, and then a single voice rises above and bullies the crowd into silence. The voice booms, "Hello Nicolas Cage. Welcome to The Coliseum."
Editor’s Note: The Coliseum is a column we’ll be posting on a semi-regular basis. The idea behind it is simple. Take a group of movies, actors, characters, or athletes with a common theme and pit them against one another in a gladiator-style battle to the death. Spectavius writers nominate and vote for their favorites. Whichever nominee garners the most votes, survives The Coliseum and earns the title of champion. As is fitting for a competition this ridiculous, we picked “ ” as our first topic for The Coliseum. We hope you enjoy. Scroll over content underlined in red for additional commentary.
There is no actor who can go between extremes quite like Nicolas Cage. When he is on, he can be
. When he goes for the paycheck or tries to play the action hero, . Because our culture has learned to embrace a train wreck, his movies tend to do well at the box office, or at least better than they deserve to do. I’m not knocking him for taking these big-paycheck , but most serious, talented actors realize when they are selling themselves short and cashing in. They tend to take it down a few notches like a professional athlete in a charity softball game or George Clooney in Ocean’s Twelve. Cage seems to take every role . He is honestly invested in each and every one of the schlock fests on this list. This is the reason why so many people will watch and love his truly awful movies: Cage never phones it in. So here is the list the Spectavius Staff has compiled for your reading and mocking pleasure…
These films are classically bad Cage, but not quite bad enough to make the medal stand.
Brian O’Donnell: Holy shit was this movie bad. Halfway through the opening credits, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy this one at all. I’m a big comic book movie fan, and I have watched pretty much all of them . This film made me hate my position on comic book flicks. The plot was awful, the effects were bad, and the acting was worse. The whole thing was just one hammy exercise in tedium. By the end of the film I was ready to strike a deal with the devil just to make it all stop.
TJ Keeley: Of course. How could this not be on the list? Bad acting and misogyny to spare. I actually think this film might've been on purpose – which makes it . How else do you explain The Cage swatting a fly off his face in the . This movie will leave you in utter horror...and craving honey.
Ryan Weisert: From the director of Scarface, The Untouchables, and that piece of shit The Black Dahlia, comes Nicolas Cage at his smarmy, douchey best. Nic plays a Jersey Boardwalk cop who is as corrupt as he is cliché. He encounters an assassination cover-up, a thrown heavyweight boxing title fight AND a hurricane. All in the same night. The plot of Face/Off is almost . Throw in a little Gary Sinise and the dad from Home Alone, and it's a wonder this film didn't win an Oscar. Snake Eyes makes the list because it displays Cage's signature crazy duality so well. He is an incredible bastard in this movie, yet he somehow pulls off the loser-with-a-heart-of-gold character in a way that only Cage can. He is so good, he actually out-douches the terrible shirt he's wearing on the movie poster.
Brian O’Donnell: This movie was not the first time our hero partnered with Jerry Bruckheimer and a terrible haircut. For a mindless popcorn flick this movie’s plot wasn’t that bad. We’ve seen Nicolas Cage do much worse. The car chases were alright, Robert Duvall cracking jokes as the wise mentor lightened the mood, and the rest of the cast members were . But the action hero routine just didn’t fit Nic Cage, even as the car thief-turned-honest citizen, dragged back into the life by his .
TJ Keeley: Nic Cage as a chemical weapons scientist? Yeah, right. Watching Cage's manic energy play off of Sean Connery's Scottish cool, with a bit of over-serious Ed Harris mixed in is a match made in .
Ryan Weisert: I think playing off of another talented actor can bring out the best in Nicolas Cage. In Matchstick Men, his interplay with Sam Rockwell is one of the best parts of the film. In Adaptation, the Cage man himself plays two roles to bounce back and forth between. But in the The Rock, Cage nearly drowns in the sea of talent that is Sean Connery. Without even trying, Sean Connery is one of the . Nic spends the first two-thirds of the movie trying to match Connery’s cool. He fails spectacularly in the way that only he can. Towards the end, he stops trying to out-cool Sean Connery and starts trying to out-Cage him. In that aim he is . I could watch these two act together forever. It’s like the first 10 rounds of any Rocky fight. Cage continually gets the shit beat out of him, but keeps coming back for more.
Ryan Weisert: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hang out with Nicolas Cage and a big bag of meth? Well thanks to John Woo, you no longer have to wonder. Just watch . Do you have two hours with absolutely nothing to do? Do you find yourself strangely attracted to ? Do you wish you had more doves in your life? If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, drop everything you’re doing and watch Face/Off immediately. What’s more unbelievable in this movie: the depth of John Travolta’s chin dimple, the “science” of removing a person’s face and grafting it onto someone else, or Cage’s violent mood swings? GO WATCH FACE/OFF RIGHT NOW!
TJ Keeley: Just watch the part where Cage tells another character, "I want to take his face....OFF!" It's absolute gold. Opposite John Travolta in this John Woo action classic, the Cage is off the chain!
1st Place and Champion of The Coliseum
Brian O’Donnell: This one has to top the list, because it was the beginning of the end for Sir Nicolas of Midford. After he won the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, Nic Cage decided he wanted to be a big action star. He started this new path with The Rock which despite some pretty Cage-ian moments, was a solid action movie. He followed this up by becoming the most unlikely of action heroes in Con Air. He had the long hair and the five o’clock shadow. He lifted all the weights and made sure to get before every scene. His wife beater could hardly contain his pecs. The acting was , the plot stunk, and the whole thing left me feeling a little queasy by the end. But it made over $200 million dollars, and people seemed to like it. Sure plenty of critics and comedians had a field day with it, but it was popular. From this point in his career forward, Nic Cage considered himself an action hero. The rest is history.
Want to contribute to Spectavius? When we announce the next installment of The Coliseum, we’ll be taking nominations and funny blurbs from our readers. So keep an eye out on Facebook for the next theme.