Release Date – 22nd April 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 47 minutes, Director – Tom Gormican
Considering retiring from acting Nicolas Cage (Nicolas Cage) is offered a million dollars to attend a wealthy fan’s birthday party, however when Javi (Pedro Pascal) is revealed to be the head of a major cartel Cage is recruited by the CIA to help take him down.
Over the years, after having been made into so many memes, Nicolas Cage has perhaps warped in the eyes of some into a meme himself. It would be so easy for The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, where the actor plays himself, to be filled with references and jokes to his career, a self-aware film filled with memes, and yet it doesn’t. It almost feels as if the lead could be any actor playing themselves, or an actor playing a fictional actor. Yet, there’s something rather clever about the idea of Nick Cage playing Nick Cage, particularly within this film. Allowing for a celebration of both his career and him simply being him, while managing to provide a couple of gags along the way.
Here we find the fictional version of Cage considering retiring from acting, after a series of bad auditions and readings for parts. This all going against the wishes of a 90s version of himself, loud and highly energetic – donning a Wild At Heart t-shirt and a leather jacket – a figure which screams the famous appearance the actor made on Wogan where he backflipped in and kicked the air. He’s in serious debt to the hotel he’s been staying at and the thing that could make that all go away is the offer of one million dollars to attend the birthday party of a wealthy fan, Javi (Pedro Pascal – having a lot of fun playing a complete ‘silly character’). However, not long after arrival Cage discovers from CIA operatives Vivan (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz) that Javi is the head of a major cartel who have kidnapped the daughter of one of the candidates in the upcoming Catalonian presidential election in the hope of fixing it. Soon he’s recruited by the pair to both get answers and track down Maria (Katrin Vankova).
A series of good performances, particularly Cage who is great as the fictionalised version/s of himself, help to bring about much of the comedy throughout the piece. While slightly prodding at action film conventions there’s generally plenty straying away from such a nature which helps the overall piece along. Allowing it to not feel tired or reliant on both knowing Cage’s career (although also featuring enough for fans of the actor) or a completely self-aware nature. It’s certainly a respectful screenplay for the actor from co-writers Kevin Etten and Tom Gormican – the latter also taking on directing duties – where narrative is put as at much of a core focus as the lead star. While this narrative may feel somewhat crammed into the third act, due to the jokes and scenes of the budding friendship between Nick and Javi – which provides plenty of laughs and chuckles throughout as the core focus of many scenes – what comes before is undeniably entertaining and at least drops some build up to it instead of forcing everything all at once towards the end in the hope of forming some kind of last-minute arc.
Yet, what makes the film click is the way in which it looks at and discusses the central figure of Nicolas Cage. The career which he has had, and will have. He’s cleverly used and cast in the film, with a different actor this would be very different, this has, of course, been tailored to Cage but in such a specific way that still manages to avoid feeling cliché or obvious. It helps to bring you in to the various scenes and moments of this fictionalised version of him, trying to be better while coping with a career breakdown. There’s so much the screenplay could easily dive into and yet it manages to avoid it all by remaining direct with its narrative, the friendship at the centre of the piece, never overinflating Cage or his presence in the film – he is as much a player/ character in this film as everyone else – and making an entertaining piece of work with plenty of laughs throughout. And it works because it looks at Nicolas Cage instead of a potential comedic perception, making it all the better for having done that.
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent works because it avoids a self-aware feel. Leaning into Nicolas Cage the actor instead of the meme. Cage is great in the leading role with a supporting cast who help bring about many of the laughs. The third act may feel somewhat busy, but there’s still plenty to enjoy throughout, especially within the central friendship.