Hollywood stock index: The highs and lows of Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage you don't say

In our new series we slip into our pinstripe suits and don a pair of horn-rimmed glasses to scrutinise the changing stock prices of Hollywood’s finest, based on Metacritic scores of their notable films. This week: Nicolas Cage (NCG).

Nicolas Cage you don't say

Ever since his first appearances on screen in the ’80s, casting Nicolas Cage in your film has been a bit of a gamble. The nephew of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, Cage was destined for cinema. And since 1981, the prolific actor has starred in at least one film every year, except for 1991. What happened Nic?

The sheer volume of films that Cage has acted in makes compiling a condensed list very difficult, so his index can start in the late ’80s, when Cage was acting in mid-range films. Working with the Coen brothers in one of their early features, Raising Arizona, 1987 saw him score an anarchic cult comedy in which he and Holly Hunter played childless kidnappers (Score: 55).

Although Cage’s career started off well, he soon took a nose-dive as Vampire’s Kiss swooped onto cinema screens. Another comedy that saw the full-on explosion of his trademark exaggerated acting style, this over-the-top performance of a business man who thinks he’s turning into a vampire understandably baffled audiences (Score: 31).

1990 saw Cage back on form with David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (Score: 52). Although the critics still weren’t quite on his side, his step away from comedy proved that Cage could perform more seriously, with the film winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Wild at Heart was good, but Cage still couldn’t help starring in an absurd flop before his next great performance. 1994’s Guarding Tess saw Cage as a secret agent contracted to protect a fictitious former first lady, played by Shirley MacLaine (Score: 46). If Cage’s film choices have a pattern, it’s beginning to show here: he zig-zags from brilliant to brain-numbing most years.

If you hadn’t given up on Cage yet, the late ’90s proved to be perhaps the highest point in his career, thanks in no small part to his 1995 Oscar win for Leaving Las Vegas (Score: 82). His portrayal of a suicidal alcoholic drinking himself to death proved that an intoxicated character is one Cage does well, and something he would return to in the next decade. Action favourite Con Air came next, and despite its lower score the film had a stellar cast including Steve Buscemi and John Malkovich and proved a cult hit (Score: 52).

If Vampire’s Kiss had the strangest narrative of Cage’s films so far, Face/Off proved that absurdity can be brilliant on screen (Score: 82). John Woo’s thriller saw Cage’s terrorist swap faces (faces!) with John Travolta’s FBI agent – and proved to be a highly enjoyable watch.

Being Nic Cage, all this couldn’t last long. In 2001 he re-lapsed and put on a very poor Italian accent in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Score: 36). The tale of an Italian officer who falls in love with a Greek islander (Penelope Cruz) in the Second World War not only allowed for that cringe-worthy accent, but also had Cage incessantly playing his instrument. Shhh.

After a flop follows a hit, of course, so back up the ladder we climb in 2002 for Spike Jonze’s inspired Adaptation (Score: 83). Cage’s best score to date, Adaptation saw him take both central roles as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and his fictional brother Donald. 

Fast-forward three years (conveniently avoiding National Treasure) and Lord of War saw him portray an arms dealer alongside Jared Leto, and featured a cameo performance from his son (Score: 62). Cage’s reputation plummeted the following year however with the dismal Wicker Man remake (Score: 36). “Not the bees!” screamed Cage, tortured by a neo-pagan island community – and ruining a perfectly classic horror movie for an entire generation.

In 2009 Cage returned to his preferred intoxicated state in Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (Score: 69). Playing an iguana-hallucinating corrupt police sergeant, Cage turned in what The Guardian called “surely his best performance in years”. Staying at a similar level, 2010 saw Cage come full-circle back to a comedy role as superhero Big Daddy in comic-book adaptation Kick-Ass (Score: 66).

We’re sailing past 2011, the year Cage stated that he had developed his own acting method called ‘Nouveau Shamanic’ (we’re still waiting on a book explaining the premise).

This year we’re in luck once more, as Cage has received positive reviews for his role in Joe as an ex-con in the deep south (Score: 73).

Ending on a positive note may suggest Cage will continue his ski-slope pattern of good-role/bad-role – but we’re hoping for a Cagaissance.

WOW247 tip: Buy! (and hope for the best)

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