Monday, July 24, 2023

Sympathy for the Devil (a.k.a. Nic Cage)

Let this film be a lesson. Keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up. I have seen smart phones snatched out cars in traffic on the streets of Rio, but the prospect of getting carjacked by Nic Cage is even worse. At least it makes for an interesting ride in Yuval Adler’s Sympathy for the Devil, which opens in theaters this Friday, after world-premiering at this year’s Fantasia.

The driver just wants to park, so he can rush to join his wife, currently undergoing labor. Unfortunately, the armed “passenger” who jumps in his back seat has other ideas. Apparently, he wants to take the driver out to a remote desert air field for some sort of underworld reckoning. It is all totally baffling to the driver, who steadfastly insists his name is David Chamberlain, even though the Passenger is convinced he is someone else.

It will be a proverbially bumpy night, especially when the Passenger shows his willingness to kill anyone interrupting his cat-and-mouse game. The premise is fairly simple, but the absolutely maniacal Nic Cage elevates it to nearly the level of high art.

Indeed, Adler shrewdly showcases the Cage Rage, trusting in its inherent appeal. Wisely, Joel Kinnaman stays out of his way, opting for an understated slow burn opposite the deranged Cage. Of course, any savvy film patron can guess the answer to the is-he-or-isn’t-he “mystery,” but the gritty duo still keeps us hooked.

The eerie outer Vegas setting definitely helps set the neon noir mood. Steven Holleran’s nocturnal cinematography and Ishai Adar’s minimalist score give the film a vintage Michael Mann vibe, which is obviously not a bad thing. However, there is no question this is Cage’s show, so anyone who gets between him and the camera had better look out.

Frankly, this is probably the best showcase for Cage’s extreme screen freak-outs and snarl-fests since either
Pig or Mandy, depending on your aesthetic taste. He certainly looks at home prowling through late-night diners and rest-stops. If you want some Cage, Adler will give you plenty. Recommended for fans of the defining actor of our generation, Sympathy for the Devil opens this Friday (7/28) in theaters.