I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Dying of the Light

tn_dyingofthelightDYING OF THE LIGHT is yet another troubled Paul Schrader production. The story is: it was a Schrader script that Nicolas Winding Refn almost directed with Harrison Ford and Channing Tatum as the leads, but Ford and Refn disagreed on the ending (guess who wanted a happy one?) so I guess Ford went and did COWBOYS & ALIENS and Refn did DRIVE. Then Refn became executive producer for Schrader directing it himself with the, uh, less-assured-of-a-theatrical-release team of Nicolas Cage and Anton Yelchin. Then after it was filmed the other producers shut out Schrader and did their own edit and scoring, so Schrader, Refn, Cage and Yelchin effectively disowned it by wearing t-shirts with the “non-disparagement” clause of their contracts that prevents them from complaining about the movie. Also cinematographer Gabriel Kosuth (2nd Unit DP of SHADOW MAN, ATTACK FORCE, FLIGHT OF FURY, AGAINST THE DARK and A GOOD MAN) wrote a righteous guest column in Variety about the producers recoloring the whole thing against his will and ruining what he and Schrader were trying to do.

We’ll get into that stuff later, but first let’s consider the Damaged Goods Cut on its own merits. It’s a flawed movie but more watchable and original than other recent basically-DTV Cage vehicles. Cage plays Evan Lake, a decorated CIA field operative who 22 years ago was tortured and had his ear mutilated by a young track-suit-wearing terrorist named Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim from the Johan Falk series). Lake refused to give up any information and was about to be executed when commandos stormed in and saved him. Now he’s kind of like their mascot. They have him give the tough guy speech to the fresh-faced new recruits, but he’s a depressed desk jockey who isn’t taken very seriously by the agency or allowed in the field. A big part of his day is trying to control or hide his shaky hand.

mp_dyingofthelightBut then Milton Schultz (Anton Yelchin, 15 MINUTES), a young old friend at the agency who owes him one, comes to him with a new piece of data. Though Banir is officially considered blown up in the raid, Lake believes he’s still alive, and he and Schultz may be able to trace him through a request for an experimental drug used to treat a rare hereditary blood disease that his father is know to have died from.

That’s a good minute detail for some spy shit to rest on, but it’s also a parallel between the hero and the villain. Both Banir and Lake have to sneak around to try to get under the radar medical treatment, and both get caught. Lake is trying to hide from the agency that he’s having trouble with his brain. He’s just been diagnosed with a form of dementia explained as “more aggressive than Alzheimer’s.” He knows he has a limited window to live and even shorter to be capable of tracking a fugitive.

Already he’s plagued by violent mood swings, paranoia, memory loss and confused senses. These things cause him to get fired and lose his driver’s license, but Yelchin, feeling sorry for him, helps him fly to Europe and Africa chasing this lead. Despite his disabilities he manages to travel on fake passports, interrogate a doctor, impersonate the doctor with a disguise and accent, infiltrate a hideout, survive a shootout. Meanwhile he starts randomly crying, gets lost outside his hotel, mixes up words (saying “Croc” instead of “Glock”), forgets what he’s doing. In one scene he confesses that Schultz’s canvas jacket feels like dog fur to his fingers. This is just after the distinctly Cage-ian move of interrupting a conversation to curiously smell a plant in the hotel lobby.

When Schultz comes over, Lake doesn’t offer him a beer, he offers him sake. I don’t know if that’s a Schrader touch to show that he’s wordly, or a Cage touch like “my character eats jellybeans out of champagne glasses.” But either way I like it.

It’s one of the frumpier Cage characters. Grey hair, balding, wire-rimmed glasses, suits probly nicer than most of ours but sloppier than most movie heroes. He’s not Tom Cruise, he’s a guy who really has had to work at a desk for decades, rotting away in spirit even before knowing his brain was doing the same thing. So it’s kinda funny when all the sudden he’s wearing a cool leather jacket in the climax. That seemed out of character to me. Give him a windbreaker and a fannypack.

Cage does get to go a little mega a few times, which I don’t always think fits in this one. When he goes way overboard in criticizing his boss I like it, and when he breaks down in the presence of his torturer, but for the new recruit speech about “values” I think it’s pounding that key a little too hard, it seems to goofy for the rest of the movie. Overall I think it’s a good performance though, with some moments that really capture the tragedy and confusion of dementia. It’s pretty heartbreaking to see Cage sitting on a bench out in the cold with his mouth hanging open and not admitting to his friend that he doesn’t remember where the hotel is.

And it’s genuinely weird and interesting this idea of a hero who is sometimes highly competent and skilled, other times completely lost and helpless. The transition is sometimes more believable than other times, but it’s an odd and unpredictable approach to a spy thriller.

Yelchin is fine, but it seems like he’s supposed to have a relationship going some years back, which he looks way too young for. Banir also seems pretty young to have faced off with Lake 22 years ago (the flashback has Cage in young makeup and the main part has Karim in an aging beard) but I think he’s quite good as a decrepit shell of a man who’s still, in context, scary to confront. And if he was older he’d probly seem like a bin Laden stand-in (what with UBL’s kidney problems and all that), which would be distracting.

Irène Jacob also adds some legitimacy to the movie as Michelle, an old more-than-a-friend who uses her skills and connections to help Lake. She was in both Louis Malle’s AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS and Stuart Baird’s U.S. MARSHALS, so she’s the exact perfect actor to be in this movie.

I’ve noticed that in movies and TV shows about stakeouts or tailing people that sitting in a car makes you invisible. Cops and private eyes are always parked right across the street holding a coffee and a hamburger, watching the bad guys meet up in broad daylight, sometimes kind of looking over their shoulders to make sure they’re not being watched, yet never looking at our guys that are clearly staring right at them in broad daylight from like 10 or 15 feet away. That always seems funny to me so I love that in this movie there are two different scenes where two different pairs of agents sit in cars watching associates of the terrorists, and in both cases they are instantly spotted. “Shit, he’s seen us!” Both times it leads to pretty well done chase scenes, too. Little Yelchin chases a guy on foot, catches him, flips him over, punches him hard in the face, pulls out a knife, slits his throat, drags his body over next to some garbage cans. Brutal. I’m impressed, Scotty.

I realized the movie was working when Lake does catch up with Banir and gets into his home under false pretenses. You’re nervous for him to get found out and then you don’t know how he’s gonna confront him when he does reveal himself, and then his illness fucks up the plan anyway and who knows what will happen? But the two broken down enemies end up sitting in a living room having a conversation about what happened all those years ago. As flawed as the movie is I think it’s worth existing just for this intense yet intimate scene.

Without underlining it too much that scene helped me see the symbolism of this story. You have two factions, both sick and dying, but insistent on getting their revenge. The American side, he starts out with reasons why he’s fighting, then when he gets there he literally forgets what he’s even supposed to be doing! And then a bunch of people get shot at the hotel pool. It’s interesting. I like what Schrader is getting at here.

mp_dyingofthelightbSo let’s talk about Schrader’s version. There are deleted scenes on the disc that maybe give an idea what was different. Mostly it’s longer versions of the same scenes. One difference is that Lake goes to visit his father in a home, implying another parallel between hero and villain, that he also may have inherited his illness from his father. Also there’s a different ending: another guy at the agency talks about Lake like a martyr and invokes his “values” speech from the beginning (the released version replays parts of his speech from the beginning).

Many of these scenes are tinted very yellow, which seems to fit what the cinematographer wrote about them using expressionistic colored lights and filters. Apparently the different locations had their own colors that were very bold and supposedly symbolized something. I can see why the producers would be concerned that it would be distracting, but they should’ve just left it alone because it’s not like the bland uncolored version looks any better.

The one thing about Schrader’s cut that I do suspect could’ve vastly improved the movie is the music and sound. Apologies to composer Frederik Wiedmann (SNIPER: LEGACY, JARHEAD 2, MIRRORS 2) but his competent but thoroughly generic score sounds exactly like any shitty DTV thriller. And there’s a cheesy credits sequence complete with whooshy Avid farts. Shit, it even does that cliche where whenever there’s a title on the screen telling you what city it is or something it does a beepity-beepity sound like our movie is being controlled by a very slow and noisy supercomputer that the agency still holds onto for nostalgia’s sake. And they do it again for the end credits. This type of shit is laughable even in Seagal and Gooding Jr. movies, and it clearly doesn’t fit the tone that Schrader has created. I can’t be sure what sort of score he would’ve gone for but I feel confident it would be more subdued than this, especially with music-savvy Refn in his corner. It’s sad, because a good score could’ve made all the difference in the world.

Also it’s too bad that there’s not a totally different one directed by Renny Harlin, like what happened with the prequel to THE EXORCIST. I never saw either version of that, but I have to believe that in a perfect world all Paul Schrader movies would have alternate Renny Harlin versions. I’d love to see his version of LIGHT OF DAY.

I’m about to get uncomfortably personal all the sudden, because what else would I do in a review of a bastardized version of a VOD Nicolas Cage drama-thriller (or thrillma). This one got to me a little more than it would most people because there is Alzheimer’s in my family. The symptoms of the dementia that Lake has are a little different, and it’s only a movie of course, but a few times Cage managed to capture facial expressions and behaviors that I recognized. We all have problems and I’m sure many of you have been through much worse, but I gotta say, it’s a shitty thing to deal with. The worst part of it is that for years now I’ve been mourning a person even though he’s still alive and physically healthy and walking around. Literally, he walks back and forth down a hallway all day. I remember vividly how it made me feel the first time I saw him doing that, and that’s just one in a long list of heartbreaking memories I’ll gladly spare you guys from hearing about. You don’t need it.

But the other part that’s more relevant to this movie is the possibility of inheriting it. In my down moments I feel like that threat is always hanging over me. It’s especially scary as a writer. Every once in a while, but more often than I’d like, I can’t think of a word or a person that I know I’ve known for years. I remember sitting on the bus one time realizing I couldn’t think of the name of an actor. It just escaped me, but I had been a fan of this guy for a while. I started listing for myself all the movies I knew of that he was in. HUSTLE & FLOW, IRON MAN, THE BEST MAN, CRASH, GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’, RED TAILS. But it took me 5 or 10 minutes to remember his name was Terence Howard. And I did the same thing with Jessica Chastain one time, I’d been talking her up all time and suddenly lost her last name for a while.

Is something wrong with me, or is it a normal aging thing? I think it’s the second one. I pray it’s the second one. But of course the possibility of ever getting sick terrifies me. Especially as a writer. I would lose everything. What about all the books I plan to write? The ideas I’ve been sitting on for way too long? They’re just gonna disappear forever? And how would I exist without being able to sit down and put my ideas into words? I guess I wouldn’t know what I was missing. Or would I sense that there was something I was supposed to be doing?

But more than that I worry about people in my life, how it would affect them. I don’t want them to have to take care of me, or pay for me to be taken care of. As if we could afford it anyway. And I’m not hunting any terrorists at this time, so I don’t have the luxury of going out with a bang like Evan Lake could do. I don’t know what I would do.

You guys know about my Oscar completism. Once again this year I saw all the best picture nominees. But you bet your ass I’m not watching the best actress frontrunner STILL ALICE, in which Julianne Moore plays a writer who finds out she has early onset Alzheimer’s. I still haven’t watched UNITED 93, I’m sure this would be worse for me.

This year in the MISERABLES slot of best-picture-nominee-I-only-saw-to-complete-the-checklist was THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, the Stephen Hawking biopic. Actually I gotta admit it’s good. Way less Miramaxy than expected, it’s a bittersweet love story, ultimately hopeful but of course very painful and sad to get through. Eddie Redmayne from JUPITER ASCENDING is as amazing as reported playing Hawking, but I was surprised by how strong of a role also-nominated Felicity Jones gets as his college sweetheart Jane. She’s the long suffering and amazingly supportive wife, usually such a thankless character type, but in this movie it’s really her story. And she manages to be smart and strong, sometimes funny, and you watch her put up with so much, and be so caring, and struggle through a harrowing journey that she could’ve opted out of, with no idea how to find time for her own needs.

So even though I wisely double featured that one with 2 FAST AND FURIOUS (which holds up by the way; totally underrated you guys) it was still the movie I watched prior to DYING OF THE LIGHT, and I guess that was alot of personal-button-pushing to pack into two movies in a row. Because THEORY also kept making me think about my family, my respect for people who are caretakers, and my deep fear of ever causing those I love to have to sacrifice themselves for me like that. And the fucked up thing is it had me thinking Hawking had it easy, because it’s terrible that he lost the use of his body but he still has his incredible brain. This thing in my family is the other way around, and that’s worse. Fuck this.

Jessica Chastain Jessica Chastain Jessica Chastain. I remember her name. Jessica Alba. Oh jesus, I forgot the other Jessica again. JB is the initials. The one that’s Whistler’s daughter. Jessica Biel. God damn it, I had to look that up. It’s probly all right, but it scares me.

So I watched this half brilliant/half shitty thriller with more heavy thoughts in my head than recommended. But I guess that’s part of what I like about the movies. Wherever you are in your life and what you’ve experienced changes your reaction and connection to even a movie like this. It’s an ever-evolving relationship. You can watch something as a kid and relate to the kids and then years later you watch it and all the sudden you’re seeing it through the eyes of the parents, or the adult narrator remembering being a kid. And everything looks different.

Because of this we might have too much trouble watching an amazing movie because it rings too false to our experience or hits too close to home. Or we might see a kiddie cartoon or a schlocky drive-in throwaway and find deep meaning in it, intentional or otherwise. We can see our lives and our feelings in the actions of a samurai or a talking pig or a confused mega-acting CIA agent on a revenge mission. Even a shitty movie can give us a way in to process these feelings, force us to confront them, and feel like we’re not alone. So thank you, The Movies. You have been good to me. I’ll do my damndest to enjoy you for many more years.

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Ah hell. I don’t want to end on that, that’s too much. Sorry about this one, guys. Let’s enjoy a screengrab together. It’s not sad when it’s out of context:

still_dyingofthelight

 

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 at 12:54 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Dying of the Light”

  1. Great review, Vern. You’ve more than a few times gotten to me with your touching perspective and perceptions of life via the prism of a film review. Thanks, bud.

    Tom

  2. Vern, this is why I never fail to read a review, even if I’ve never heard of the movie. Thought provoking and true, as usual.

    I’ve got dementia in my family as well, and it’s a brutal, brutal illness.

    I wouldn’t worry about forgetting actor names though, that happens to all of us, especially for trivia like that. I’m in my 20’s and I space out on actors all the time, and I’m fairly certain I don’t have dementia yet. Yesterday it took me 20 minutes to remember Maya Rudolph’s name after watching MacGruber (I got it though, didn’t have to IMDB it).

  3. great stuff as usual vern. thanks.

  4. I saw this in the theater because Schrader/Cage is an instant must see for me. I didn’t know going in that it had been hacked apart but it became glaringly obvious about 5 minutes in. I’m glad you mentioned the score because it’s probably the worst (as in least appropriate) I’ve heard in my entire life. That combined with the violently stupid editing made it clear someone had gotten their hands on a Paul Schrader movie and turned it into the least interesting thing they could manage.

    SPOILER

    I still felt it was worth it for the scene where Cage kicks down a door, screams “as-salamu alaykum, asshole!” and then sticks his finger in a guy’s eye socket until he does.

  5. You’re my Don Covay, Vern. You write with such eloquence and integrity. Thanks for sharing some of your story.

  6. I definitely know where you’re coming from, Vern. As you were describing the movie I thought to myself, “Man, I don’t think I could watch this one.” I also have dementia in my family history and am trying my hand as a writer. About six months ago I sat down and wrote about half of a book and every time I had to stop because I couldn’t think of the word I was searching for I had to talk myself down from a full blown panic attack. Thanks for shedding a little of your mystery to show us some of the humanity we’ve come to appreciate from your writing.

  7. Have you seen Don Hertzfeld’s IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY?

    Total masterpiece, one of the best things I’ve ever seen, you should totally check it out…

    Then again, it’s about a guy losing him mind for unknown reasons that may or may not be Alzheimer’s (or dementia or psychosis), so it would totally crush you.

  8. Sucks that the studio had to stick their fingers in this one. Schrader has a unique voice, and a no frills style that I appreciate. I liked both versions of EXORCIST: DEMON BEGINS. Harlins had the expected Hollywood boo! value, which we see a million times a year, and can be fun when done right, but I found Schraders the most thoughtful about issues of guilt and faith. AFFLICTION is a great film also.

  9. Nah, don’t worry about the forgetting-actors’-names problem. It’s normal. Just this morning I forgot Mark Margolis’ name less than 5 minutes after I saw it in the opening credits of HANNIBAL and I actually had to interrupt the movie to check on IMDB what it was and what his character in BREAKING BAD was called again, because it drove me so crazy.

    I mentioned my struggle with depressions on here a few times and because of that I still haven’t seen SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, so I totally get you in that regard. Also my mother has been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor 10 years ago and every once in a while I catch her doing weird things. Nothing obvious, just something like telling a story and then digressing to the weirdest subjects and spending a lot of time on the least important details. And then I start wondering if it’s her age, if the tumor got worse or if it’s always been like that. (Basically yes, but was it that bad 20 years ago? And was it the tumor all along?)

    Shit like that is tough, man. But seriously, I appreciate that you share those personal thoughts with us.

  10. Absolutely brilliant review Vern, well done. I’m having one of those days – my dog died today, which might not be as bad as dealing with a relative with Alzheimers, but its still pretty shitty – but the films and shows I’ve been watching to take my mind off it have taken on strange, unintentional significance. Thanks for explaining it far better than I ever could.

    And I also second the recommendation for IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY. It’s hands down one of the best films of the decade, though it is crushingly bleak.

  11. You’re such a good writer man. Kudos on another great piece.

    You’ve already established a fantastic body of work and it’s great to watch you get better an better.

    Here’s to years and years and years of Vern!

  12. Thank you for the reality dose, Vern. You remind me of Roger Ebert in the ways that you’re not afraid to say if a movie–any movie–has some personal significance to you, and to help explain a little about that significance to the rest of us, so we can better empathize with you, if not necessarily the movie. The mother of a friend from church just passed away after a long and very frustrating struggle with Alzheimer’s, so the notion of what a relative goes through in that horrible situation has been something I’ve been thinking about lately. The fact that her mother lived in Seattle is a sobering coincidence not lost on me when I started reading the middle portion of your review.

    This movie seems to have some basic parallels with an excellent picture I was in an early screening audience for several months ago, an Atom Egoyan film called REMEMBER, with Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau. The value of revenge when pitted against the agonizing obstacle of dementia…I don’t believe I’m allowed to say much more about it, other than that it sounds like a better execution of some of the themes going on here. It was touching, tense, and brutal at times, and I thoroughly believe it’s going to be in the conversation for awards this time next year. Like FOXCATCHER, another one I was lucky enough to see early on, I thought “I wonder what Vern is going to think about this?” But, based on your background, you might want to consider this an early, early warning to stay away from it, rather than a recommendation. Anyway, take it under advisement, and thank you, as always, for the review.

    P.S. I feel there really are actors with unmemorable names, so don’t feel too bad on that count. You’ve got the performances firmly lodged in your mind, which is what counts. And the second you stumble over Rudy Moore’s middle name, we’ll all be here to help you.

  13. Good review as usual. I’ll see this as a Cage completist, but I’m also concerned about the personal shit I have associated with such degenerative disorders. My grandmother passed away a few years ago from Alzheimer’s and watching that strong, beautiful independent woman turn into an empty shell both physically and mentally was nothing less then horrifying.

    My mom is good at hiding it, but you can see the worry creep into her eyes when you’re tlking to her and she forgets something she ought to know. I ask myself the same questions. She’s in her early 60s, so is it just ate, or possibly something worse. Makes me sick to think about sometimes.

    Sorry this comment strayed from the film, I just got caught up in the moment and what Vern was expressing. Vern, I am truly sorry for what is happening to your family member, and I hope other people sharing their experiences and thoughts is helpful to you in some way.

    Shit, now I’m emotional. Much love to Vern and all you cool cat commenters here. I’m going to go watch something happy now.

  14. Sorry for the spelling errors. Talking* and age* not ate.

  15. Awesome write-up Vern. I’ve always had a crap memory for details, and sometimes worry if it’s getting worse, have some history of alzheimer’s in my family as well. Always felt like it’s a disease that should be garnering a lot more attention based on the amount of people it effects, hopefully Seth Rogen’s kinda recent comments can drum up some interest.

    Also, I did watch Still Alice, was like a personal horror film for me. Well made movie, and a great performance by Julianne Moore, but not sure if I can recommend it if you’re sensitive to the material. Anyways, thanks for talking about this stuff, hit home for me.

  16. Johan Falk is mentioned in a Vern review. That makes me happy. Sorry to hear about your problems, though. I´ve never experienced anyone with Alzheimers firsthand, but I can understand if it can be difficult to cope with.

    I´ve also struggled with remembering names of actors. Frustrating when it happens. It´s like I have it on the tip of my tongue but for some reason I can´t dig it out of my brain computer.

  17. About forgetting names – I sometimes wonder if artificial intelligence types are never going to make computers think like people, so long as we immediately think a computer’s broken if it can’t find a file that’s there. Computers have to be on top of all the shit that’s in them, all the time, but maybe having loose, weird memories is part of the trade-off we have to make for being creative? Writing great reviews? Anyways, great – you can now trace the invention of Skynet back to this comment

  18. Because of this we might have too much trouble watching an amazing movie because it rings too false to our experience or hits too close to home. Or we might see a kiddie cartoon or a schlocky drive-in throwaway and find deep meaning in it, intentional or otherwise. We can see our lives and our feelings in the actions of a samurai or a talking pig or a confused mega-acting CIA agent on a revenge mission. Even a shitty movie can give us a way in to process these feelings, force us to confront them, and feel like we’re not alone. So thank you, The Movies. You have been good to me. I’ll do my damndest to enjoy you for many more years.

    This. This paragraph right here is what makes this review a classic.

    The personal insight, then turned outward for all to reflect upon. Beautiful.

  19. I go through the actor’s-name-recall-failure about fifteen times a day. No alzheimers in my family, but I do work shifts and suffer from insomnia a lot so I figure it’s due to lack of sleep.

    It does occasionally concern me when I can’t think of someone’s name even though I seem to hear/read about them regularly (I’ve had the Jessica Chastain one. I usually start off with Simpson… then Biel… then Chastain!), but it is worth remembering that we do actually retain a hell of a lot of names/info in general so it is probably natural for it to sometimes take a while. When I forget Ryan Gosling’s name I just remind myself that I can mention a film to my girlfriend and she will have no recollection of it two months after we watched it together, yet I could probably quote Predator in it’s entirety and I haven’t seen it in about five years, so I don’t have to break out the Memento tattoos just yet.

  20. I’ve had those spells of forgetting the name of someone really well known too. It’s one of those things where you hear about it and you think that’s weird, but then it happens to you and you realize oh, everyone’s susceptible to it. It’s not a warning sign of anything serious. Sadly, the serious memory conditions probably don’t have such noticeable indicators. Thank you for sharing, once again.

    I thought Dying of the Light was good and Cage was great in it. I didn’t think any of the deleted scenes would have made it a significantly different film, whether the ending was the reprise of the opening or that other scene. Interesting that there was more political stuff in the extended opening, but not a different film. The colors were interesting but I probably would have distracted me more. You’re right, a good score would have probably made the most difference, but I’m surprised Schrader is so defended considering his last few movies included THE CANYONS, THE WALKER, really bad stuff.

    Renny Harlin reshooting every Schrader movie is a great idea though. Both EXORCIST 4s sucked but Harlin directing Cage in a bombastic CIA thriller could work.

    Can we talk about getting a gray-haired Cage? I’ve been waiting for this. I know the pressures to stay young mean dying your hair but a 50-year-old man should be able to play distinguished aging characters. Evan Lake may be even aged up a bit but I think it’s great. It suited Cage.

  21. Well first off, another great review, and a very personal one. I really have nothing to add to the discussion otherwise.

    Since the forums are officially now exclusively the provision of spambots chatting to each other, is there anywhere I can throw out a recommendation without completely derailing the thread? ‘Cause I have a good one, and I’d advise everybody to see the film in question before Vern reviews it (as I’m guessing he probably will).

  22. I’ve been stuck in the Jessica whirlwind before, listing them all until I find the right one, but even more than the Jessicas, I have trouble with the Chrises (Chrisi?). I run through them all – Pine, Klein, Evans, which one is he?! I can usually keep Hemsworth and Pratt separate. I guess their last names are different enough. The others are too generic.

  23. It’s worth noting that people actually have to, and do, remember more now than they have ever had to. Passwords, usernames, email addresses, websites (sights), and that’s not even starting on things that you WANT to remember (song lyrics, film actors, titles, directors, etc, good scenes, witty dialogue). We are bombarded with information and it is all filed away in our overstuffed brains, so it’s going to take longer to process. It takes longer to scan a 2tb drive than a 1gb memory stick.

  24. I’ve forgotten Gina Carano’s name like 15 times. And I LOVE Gina Carano. I think and talk about Gina Carano all the time. Yet she must have one of those names that fits perfectly into a preexisting crack in my brainbox because every now and then I’ll be trying to talk about HAYWIRE or something and my mind-grapes will spit up “Maria…Something?”

    It’s just one of those things. I got four younger siblings, and I remember all their birthdays except for one sister. That particular piece of information simply will not take root no matter what I do. And she’s the oldest, too, so I’ve had longer to learn it.

    Brains are complicated things. But I guess if they were easy, everyone would have one.

  25. Vern- out of curiosity, have you seen a Johan Falk movie? If you have not I recommend the two first theatrical ones, ZERO TOLERANCE ( a nice Swedish take on the DIRTY HARRY formula) and EXECUTIVE PROTECTION ( a damn fine SEVEN SAMURAI-on-the Swedish-outbacks). They should have been released in the States by now.

    The digitally shot EXECUTIVE PROTECTION might look shit but it builds great, has great suspense and it has some unusual quirks that makes it stand out.

  26. Shoot – I haven’t, but I remembered you liked that character so I threw it in for you. I’ll try to remember to look for ZERO TOLERANCE.

  27. Thanks, much appreciated!

  28. I only semi-recall seeing some of the older theatrical Falk films, but I’ve definitely seen a whole lot of the later GSI TV movies with Eklund and Joel Kinnaman, which were solid enough crime TV fodder.

    My problem with Eklund is that one corner of his mouth is always slightly twisted up so that it seems like he’s smirking even when he’s playing deadly serious or grieving. I don’t know if that’s down to some sort of Stallone-style partial facial paralysis or if it’s a choice he’s making intentionally, but I find it kinda distracting.

  29. Yeah I know what you mean. I think it is made as an intentional tough guy look. You know, like how Clint squints. Also because I´ve never seen Eklund do that in other films. It never bothered me, though. In fact I embrace action film grimaces.

  30. My friends and family have a hard time watching ZOO for similar reasons.

  31. Hey Vern. It’s a bitch getting older, huh?

    Your story about losing Terrence Howard’s name echoes an experience I had recently. I was on set — directing a commercial for laundry detergent, nothing fancy — and I was giving a bit of direction to one of my actors, and halfway through I just completely fucking blanked out on what I was trying to say. Had to resort to the old “Fuck, what’s the word I’m looking for, uh, uh….gosh, why can’t I think of it?” gambit, stalled for time for like 10 seconds while this guy just stared at me waiting for me to explain something that I had no idea how to explain — I didn’t even know WHAT I was trying to explain. And it was a really clear moment of, ‘This has not happened to me before, this is more than just a weird memory fart, this is me getting fucking older.’ And now I’m starting to understand exactly why actors & directors & writers etc get shittier as they get older. It’s because their brains stop fucking working as good. (Or as George Lucas once said, “I used to be able to catch the arrows. Now I can’ t even see them going by.”)

    And that’s going to happen to us. Hell, it IS starting to happen to us (or at least to me). So I guess the question now becomes, “What am I going to do with this time before my brain shuts down completely?” Time to start prioritizing, I guess. Figure out which books are the important ones to write, then write those first, Vern.

    Anyway, sorry for the ramble. Just letting you know you’re not alone. Hang in there, pal. Rage against the dying of the light, etc.

  32. I don’t have really anything to add but this sort of reminds of a Belgian thriller I read about titled DE ZAAK ALZHEIMER(THE ALZHEIMER CASE) released here in the US as THE MEMORY OF A KILLER. Has anyone ever seen it? I still remember a little bit of the Dutch language I learned in college and the premise seems interesting.

  33. Good movie, great review, Vern. The movie’s not perfect and the last 10 minutes seem to come from a different, more action-y Nicolas Cage DTV movie (specifically it’s like he walked off the set of Rage still wearing the leather jacket and stumbled into this movie). But I dunno, the big meeting between Cage and the villain brought a huge grin to my face and *SPOILER* I love how Cage plays a dying bookworm the entire movie but then, like Val Kilmer in Tombstone, miraculously pulls himself together to horrifically kill the bejezus out of some guys. Add in some of his best mega-acting in years and this is a must-see for Cage fans.

    Didn’t even notice the music or the avid farts, to be honest – I wouldn’t have known there was any studio interference going on if I hadn’t already heard about it. Maybe I’m just desensitized to Cage DTV – this is definitely better put together than Stolen, Rage, or Seeking Justice, for instance.

    *SUPER SPOILER* – is Cage getting to that point in his career where he’s going to start dying all the time now? I mean, he’s died pretty consistently all the way back to the 80, but (without naming names) I noticed he’s died in an inordinate number of his movies lately, possibly more often than he lives!

  34. Friends of outlawvern.com. Similar to our deadzonian friend of late, I’ve run afoul of an online intruder, and need to go underground. In the interest of national security, and to preserve justice, liberty, world peace and the right to leave the toilet seat up if I so choose, the government has agreed to remove my old face, if you will, and give me a new identity. One in line with my tastes. Thank you, friends.

  35. On the whole memory thing – I think having the Internet has made us all lazier about remembering stuff.

    Right now I’m watching a 12 MONKEYS episode that has a character clearly based on the Wikileaks guy. While watching, I realized I couldn’t remember the actual Wikileaks guy’s name – Julian something. It took me a while to remember his last name.

    Also, there’s a psychological experiment where you look at different versions of a quarter and have to say which one is accurate. Do you know all the fine details – even something basic like which direction George Washington is facing? Possibly not, because you only ever have to know what a quarter looks like well enough to distinguish it from other denominations of coin. You never have to distinguish between different versions of a quarter, so you never have to mentally record all that supporting information, even though you look at quarters on a regular basis throughout your life.

    You’re never required to remember something if the culture is remembering it for you. Like Indy’s dad said, “I wrote them down in my diary so that I wouldn’t have to remember!” So we’re all getting soft.

  36. Vern I’m late to this, but I just want to say thank you for sharing that about your family, it was very touching.

  37. ” Assalamu alaikum, asshole “, has just become my favorite badass pun of the decade.

  38. I watched Cage’s most recent DVD release in the UK; THE RUNNER. It reminded me a lot of this one, insofar as I suspect there was a much better cut of this movie at some point that was cut down to something messy, a little frustrating and not particularly comprehensible. As far as I can tell the two movies have no producers or distributors in common, so if my theory is right maybe this is the future of DTV Cagers; mistreated, underfunded films derived from scripts which were almost certainly designed to either be something much more unique, or perhaps a prestige picture. Still, it wasn’t a waste of my time; Cage is good playing a very interesting character, Peter Fonda is good and has a couple of great scenes, Bryan Batt is good, and the film does try to say something genuinely interesting and provocative about recent US politics, with a genuinely creepy last scene. I do feel like seeing the overambitious DTVs that come with being a Cage completist has been more rewarding for me than the underambitious DVDs I got (and AFAICT would still be getting) as a Seagal completist, and in that sense I feel I have really grown and developed over the past decade.

  39. Hey, this one was slightly better than I thought. An honest-to-god good script, a suitably eccentric Nic Cage role, mostly competently assembled, at least broadly speaking. But holy crap, those deleted scenes speak to a movie that was actually good, not just “well, it’s pretty good for what it is.” Not in content (they’re mostly just longer versions) but in style. You could easily put forth an argument that color-tinting was a tiresome cliche a decade ago and you’d not be wrong. But like it or not, it was obviously the way these images were intended to be seen. With the coloring, the lighting and framing make so much more sense. Painfully bland images look more composed. And images which already looked composed but came off kinda amateurish (for example, the scene where he freaks out at the CIA director in a room lit by slits of bright light) suddenly actually look professional.

    But its not just the coloring, it’s the editing, too. The scene where he gets his diagnosis from the doctor is framed completely differently. There’s a shot where the two of them are seperated by the computer running down the middle of the screen. When they go back and forth, the doctor is in the extreme right of the screen, with most of the frame being taken up by out-of-focus negative space. When it cuts to Cage, he’s at the extreme left of the screen, so far that the left of his head is slightly cut off, again with most of the frame being negative. In the final version, both are framed in boring shots in the middle of the screen, and most of this conversation is actually overdubbed over avid fart cuts to highlighted words in a textbook and Cage looking angry at his computer (and an inexplicable shot of him walking down a hallway, which in the deleted scenes is revealed to be the hallway to the sunroom where his dad, also suffering from dementia, resides).

    Likewise, check out the scene in Mombassa where Cage offers some possibilities about what he’s going to do to his foe (“maybe I’ll just cut his neck and let the blood wash over me”). The final version cuts listlessly to uninteresting medium shots, but the deleted version has nearly the whole speech take place in one long shot, as they walk in front of the hotel from right to left.

    Now, there are problems here that better lighting and editing wouldn’t solve. I don’t know if the framing of that Doctor’s visit scene would really be a game changer. And I’m not at all sure their stupid color-saturated idea was a good one. But seeing it, at least it looks intentional, which the final version simply never does. The final version looks haphazard, mundane, like no one putting it together cared about what they were doing. But obviously they did — I can see why Kosuth was so upset, because he obviously DID make an effort to set up interesting shots and good lighting, only to have it completely removed and replaced with the most bland, generic looking DTV images they could come up with (and, obviously, music too, but that’s another story). It still might not have been a great movie if they had released the original version, but it’s at least something you could have put in a theater without shame. As it is, the producers seem to have intentionally made their movie looks cheaper and uglier, just to definitively ensure no one who might actually have been interested in it would ever find it. And that’s a real shame.

  40. So there’s a new Schrader flick with Cage and Dafoe coming out. Hopefully this time it will remain UNFUCKED WITH by studio dickheads. It looks very Elmore Leonard-y, and super-violent. I saw a Schrader cameo in there also.

    (p.s. when I viewed this on YT I had to endure an AMERICAN HONEY trailer with Shia Lebeef, so….sorry if that’s included here. I’m new to this linking shit.)

  41. And..the bitch didn’t work. I won’t attempt it again and waste your time. Google DOG EAT DOG trailer if you’re interested.

  42. It grieves me to report that DOG EAT DOG is not a very good film, in my opinion. Doubly painful because Schrader is mostly on mark to my taste, and it’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, period.

    Mean-spirited. Unfunny when it’s meant to be funny. Simple things like placing a character in frame are dumbfoundingly disregarded.

    As far as I know there was no studio interference like with DYING, but this one desperately needed an intervention.

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