Director: Tom Gormican
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Lily Sheen, with Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Drug Use)
Released By: Encore Films
Opening Day: 21 April 2022
Synopsis: Nicolas Cage stars as... Nick Cage in the action-comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, the fictionalized version of Cage must accept a $1million offer to attend the birthday of a dangerous superfan (Pedro Pascal). Things take a wildly unexpected turn when Cage is recruited by a CIA operative (Tiffany Haddish) and forced to live up to his own legend, channeling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. With a career built for this very moment, the seminal award-winning actor must take on the role of a lifetime: Nick Cage.
All together, Nicolas Cage has spent the last 40 years in show business, so unless you belonged to the last decade where he had largely headlined direct-to-video independent films, you would probably have seen the actor in one of his iconic roles.
Notwithstanding this, it bears saying that a premise like that in ‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’ – in which a washed-out mega Hollywood star finds his mojo by reliving his former performances through being a CIA informant for a political kidnapping – would not be possible without an undeniable star of inimitable talent like Cage; and yet it would be presumptuous to think that such a movie would immediately be successful just with Cage’s participation, given the spotty track record of such projects with Hollywood faces playing themselves.
With absolute relief therefore, we are proud to say that Tom Gormican’s meta-action comedy is a blast through and through. It isn’t just about the numerous references to Cage’s films over the years – and that includes not only the blockbusters like ‘Con Air’, ‘The Rock’ or ‘Face/Off’ but also under-rated classics such as ‘Guarding Tess’, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ and the more recent ‘Pig’; rather, it is about how Cage proves perfectly self-aware, willing to embrace both the accolades and the brickbats which have been levelled at him throughout his career.
Cage introduces us to the fictionalised version of himself accosting filmmaker David Gordon Green for a movie role which he says could be his “King Lear”, insisting despite the latter declining the invitation to put on a Boston accent to perform a monologue at the valet pick-up of the leafy industry haunt Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Nick (as his alter-ego here is known) doesn’t get the role; with a $600k debt he owes to the Sunset Tower hotel and his own lavish lifestyle to support, Nick has no choice but to reluctantly accept his agent’s (Neil Patrick Harris) offer to appear at a birthday party in Mallorca for a million dollar payday.
Turns out that the invite is from a Cage superfan named Javi (Pedro Pascal), who personally picks him up on a speedboat to bring Nick to his private sun-struck villa. Besides gracing his special day, Javi hopes to use the opportunity to convince Nick to star in a screenplay he has written. The surprise here is the double act between Cage and Pascal, the former’s amplified star personas combining with the latter’s starry-eyed guilelessness to exude an immediate and unflinching chemistry that brings an infectious exuberance and unexpected poignance to the proceedings.
Against their bromance, the intrusion by two CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) stand little chance. Despite their warnings therefore that the latter is a very dangerous man (or to be more precise, the head of a major Spanish crime organisation who kidnapped the teenage girl we saw earlier to force a Catalan presidential candidate to drop out of the election), you’ll find yourself rooting for Nick and Javi, basking in their friendship as they bond over drinks, drives and cliff-diving. It isn’t so much that Pascal steals the show than the fact that he brings out the more affecting side of Cage, elevating the movie into a delightfully sweet buddy comedy.
To his credit, Gormican skilfully utilises these moments to complement the more self-indulgent parts of his movie, especially in the second act where Nick alternates between his various onscreen personas in a number of bravura set-pieces, including a cat-burgling attempt impeded by a paralytic nerve agent and an LSD-addled vehicular chase. That the conventional action beats of the third act doesn’t descend into just another standard-issue Cage action movie is also credit to the synergy between Cage and Pascal; and without giving too much away, let’s just say that they team up in some pleasantly unexpected ways.
As risky as such a high-flying concept was therefore, ‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’ is an unabashed hoot that is a must-see for everyone who has ever harboured an abiding love for Cage. Far from being a self-absorbed misfire, this meta-comedy proves a giddy exercise in self-referential humour, buoyed by a wonderfully attuned Cage who is willing to laugh at his own excesses, acknowledge the criticisms levelled at him and wear his vulnerabilities on his sleeve. That you’ll walk out loving the inimitable Cage even more is testament to the film’s success as a fascinating mix of realness, fakeness, vanity, artistry, self-commentary and pure comedy.
(Whether as Nick Cage or Nicky Cage, Nicolas Cage is simply inimitable in this delightfully self-aware tribute to one of the greatest American actors of our generation)
Review by Gabriel Chong