‘The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent’ review: Nic Cage takes us inside the in-joke

There's meta, and then there's this...

Which Nicolas Cage are you? Hair blowing softly in the wind from Con Air? Screaming at bees in The Wicker Man? Wild-eyed intensity from Raising Arizona? They’re all here in The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent – along with every other Cage going, including the one in Adaptation where he plays two people at once who are sort of supposed to be two sides of the same person.

Turning Cage’s cult of personality back on itself, writer-director Tom Gormican’s meta-movie hopes to be the ultimate Nicolas Cage meme. It’s a film about Nicolas Cage playing Nicolas Cage being all Nicolas Cage. If you’re already a fan then you’ll have a blast, but a few knowing nods too many keep the film from being quite as smart as it thinks it is.

Cage, then, is “Nic Cage”, star of The Rock, National Treasure, Leaving Las Vegas and Face/Off, down on his luck after losing the one role that could have turned his career around. Quickly losing the respect of his wife (Catastrophe‘s Sharon Horgan, not Cage’s real wife) and teenage daughter (Lily Sheen, also unrelated in real life) because he’s so weird and intense, Cage reluctantly agrees to take a paying gig at a billionaire’s birthday party on a South American island.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent
Nic Cage and Pedro Pascal in ‘The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent’. CREDIT: Alamy

Turning up to meet Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) he finds a Cage-obsessed cinephile who also happens to be a shady arms dealer. Since Nic is welcomed into Javi’s inner compound for the party, the CIA convince him to help them take him down, giving him a chance to flex his action star skills for real. The only problem is, Javi seems like a thoroughly lovely guy, and he also has a great script for a comedy action meta-movie about the real Nic Cage playing himself on an island…

If it sounds complicated, it’s really not. Gormican keeps everything barrelling along and Cage does everything he can to make sure we know that he’s in on the joke. For all Cage’s talent, it turns out he’s not that great at comedy – always funnier by accident when he’s supposed to be playing it straight. Far better is Pascal, yet again the surprise star in a movie with unexpected gags (see Wonder Woman 1984). One weird drug trip lets both actors completely off the leash, and the scenes of Cage beating up his younger, madder self (shown here as a coked-up ’80s evil angel, also played by Cage, doing an impression of himself in Wild At Heart) are hysterical.

Unfortunately though, that’s also part of the problem. The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent was always going to look like it was trying too hard to capture the odd energy of its subject. There’s something weird and wonderful about watching Nicolas Cage deconstruct his own image in a fun movie full of exploding cars and slow-motion gun ballets, but he’s sort of been doing that for decades already. And those films didn’t need to remind you of the joke every few minutes.

Details

  • Director: Tom Gormican
  • Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan
  • Release date: April 22
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