Thanks to his consistent, rote appearances in hokey, terrible films like The Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Wicker Man, Nicolas Cage has been a punchline for years. But with the arrival of Joe, a new David Gordon Green film that debuted at the Venice Film Festival today, audiences may feel compelled to take the Oscar-winner seriously again.
As Oliver Lyttelton writes in his review of Joe at Indiewire's The Playlist, both Cage and Green—who directed the 2011 abomination Your Highness— are "somewhat on the comeback trail," but it's Cage, 49, who arguably has more at stake in this adaptation of a 1991 Larry Brown novel. (The mockery of the actor has been so cutting and consistent that he's been the subject of a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch starring Andy Samberg.) But here's our argument as to why Cage should be given another chance.
1. The reviews for Joe are great.
The critical reaction to Cage's work in the drama—he plays Joe Ransom, a former criminal who oversees a crew that "poisons" trees for a lumber company and develops a bond with a new-in-town teen—have been quite good. Justin Chang at Variety calls the performance "excellent" and "tightly wound." David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter writes that where the film "really works is in Cage's bone-deep characterization of a man at war with himself, as tightly leashed as the badass bulldog that guards his house. " AFP's Ella Ide explains that Cage "captivated audiences," adding that the actor "plunges the depths of humanity once more with his performance of wild criminal Joe Ransom, guardian of the lost and helpless." Lyttelton calls his work "rich and rewarding."
2. He's done great work in the past.
Remember when Nicolas Cage was a highly acclaimed actor and not the star of the National Treasure franchise? Yeah, we know it's hard. But reeducate yourself. Watch his Oscar speech from the time he won for Leaving Las Vegas:
Yeah. Nic Cage has an Oscar. Now watch his great speech from Moonstruck.
3. We all make mistakes.
Cage is set to star in Left Behind, a project directed by notable stunt coordinator and stunt double Vic Armstrong and co-starring Chad Michael Murray and Jordin Sparks. Left Behind is a reboot of what what Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter described as a "faith-based, action-packed book and movie series about the End Times." (Earlier Left Behind films starred Kirk Cameron.) Cage plays the pilot of a jumbo jet who has to calm his passengers and land a plane during the Rapture. So, yeah, that probably won't be very good. But let's, for now, appreciate Joe for what it is. Sure, Cage may have had major financial issues because of spending problems and starred in a bunch of crappy movies including but not limited to the Ghost Rider franchise and Captain Corelli's Mandolin. No, maybe no one has been particularly sentimental about his career, but Hollywood loves a reformation story, especially when it involves a good performance. Let's just give this round to Cage.