Nic Cage and Liam Neeson: ‘Good’ Actors in ‘Bad’ Movies

Source: Magellan Pictures

Kidnapped family, broken glass, ominous violins, stoic voiceover, man on the edge with nothing to lose: No, it’s not the newest Liam Neeson movie — it’s the newest Nicolas Cage movie.

In the trailer for his latest film, Cage dons his well-known, maniac-for-hire persona just weeks after his performance in David Gordon Green’s Joe earned the actor rave reviews. Cage, who seems to be in a constant duel with Neeson for most bad films on an award-winning actor’s resume, has had a wildly uneven career, with certifiably great performances in Leaving Las VegasAdaptationBad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and the criminally underrated Bringing Out the Dead peppered among a strange slew of awful would-be blockbusters like Season of the WitchGhost RiderBangkok Dangerous, and Stolen.

The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo wrote a keen piece about the mythos of the Cage shtick: wild yelling, jarring fluctuations in tone, emphasizing seemingly random words and going bug-eyed, over-the-top crazy (Community parodied the Cage shtick this season, using the actor to reflect the randomness and meaninglessness of life).

Cage is often described as an actor who is capable of brilliance when he’s able to control the insanity percolating inside of him and allow it to manifest in his performance instead of just going off-the-wall nuts, but this isn’t really a fair evaluation of Cage’s acting prowess. Cage’s problem isn’t that he’s lazy or that he doesn’t control his fervor — it’s quite the opposite. He tries to turn every performance into a great performance, regardless of the film in which he’s appearing.