There are two basic Nic Cage movies – there’s his increasingly infrequent big budget, Hollywood projects (it’s been four years since you didn’t see Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the theaters), and his increasingly frequent, medium-sized budget movies like Season of the Witch, Drive Angry, Trespass, Spirit of Vengeance, and STOLEN, where you can see the production companies hedging their bet but hoping they strike it lucky.
STOLEN might be the best example of this latter Cage movie – with a reported budget of “only” $35 million, the producers have still managed to surround Cage with some credible talent, getting Simon West to direct him alongside Josh Lucas, Malin Akerman, Danny Huston, and Mark Valley.
The result is a mildly satisfying, but also slightly stupefying film. Nic Cage is a fantastic actor when he wants to be, and I’m not sure he wants to be all that great here. Or maybe he just can’t be great any more. In my review for Drive Angry, I talked about how his muted performance let the film work around him. Amber Heard and William Fichtner carried the movie and Cage looked happy to let them. Here, though, STOLEN desperately needs some of the old school Nic Cage star power and he either can’t deliver it, or chooses not to bring it.
But make no mistake, STOLEN needs it because Cage is in nearly every scene. In Drive Angry, Heard provided all the energy and Fichtner provided all the cool, but STOLEN can only deliver on half of that formula.
The best part of STOLEN, and the reason I’d recommend the film, is the FBI due of Danny Huston and Mark Valley. Huston is one of those actors very much like Fichtner in that he’s a “that guy” you recognize without necessarily knowing his name or where you know him from. He’s just always good, almost always exactly what the film needs. He gives his character, Tim Harland, a confident cool that offsets the hot anger of Mark Valley’s Agent Fletcher. I’d be all for NBC taking this duo and building a weekly show around them to put on the schedule after The Blacklist.
As the film opens, Harland and Fletcher are waiting for Will Montgomery (Cage) and his crew, Vincent (Lucas), Simms (Akerman), and Hoyt (Gainey) to pull off a robbery so they can catch them in the act and send them to jail. (Montgomery is “the best thief in the world” or some nonsense.) Things go wrong on the robbery because Vincent wants to shoot a guy who sees them fleeing with their money and Will refuses. Will ends up getting caught but his crew escapes and he doesn’t rat them out because he’s not only the best thief in the world, but believes in honors among thieves. Or whatever.
The film jumps to the day Will gets out. He goes and sees his daughter who hates him because prison. Vincent is dead, except he’s not really dead. He’s just …
Yeah, look, the second reason you should watch this movie is to see the giant fuckball they throw up with Josh Lucas. In the opening scene, he’s regular old handsome and smarmy Josh Lucas. But eight years later, he’s pretending to be dead. When you see him, you’ll think he’s actually dead. They give him nasty skin and long, wispy hair, and, I kid you not, a metal leg. I don’t even know what the hell they were thinking when they created this character shift. I mean, I can see they want us to think he’s crazy and dangerous, but we get that just fine from the fact that he’s faked his death AND KIDNAPS WILL’S DAUGHTER!
Every time Lucas is on screen with this ridiculous get-up … I just can’t imagine no one in production went, “Hey, that’s a really fucking stupid idea.”
What STOLEN needs is it’s equivalent to Amber Heard, someone with some fire and brimstone in her to punch up the action and take the pressure (and your eyeballs) off of Cage. You would think this is why they hired Akerman, but she’s completely wasted in the movie, disappearing for a huge chunk in the middle so Nic Cage can run around on his own.
Simon West turns in his usual professional directing, and as a result STOLEN isn’t ever unwatchable. It moves fast and with a real purpose, but there’s just not enough here to hit with any impact beyond Huston and Valley. It’s enjoyable but not memorable, the exact kind of movie that you watch because you have Netflix’s Instant Streaming and a bag of mediocre potato chips you need to finish because you paid $2.49 for that bag and you don’t want those 10 quarters to go to waste.