Cage as Capone? What a Crime

I worry, sometimes, about the great mysteries of life. Why are we born? What happens to us after we die? Who made Nicolas Cage a star? Does he have pictures of someone in a compromising position?

And then I remember: Of course, he's a Coppola. Francis is his uncle. And though Cage changed his name so as not to appear to be cashing in on his family reputation, that obviously didn't stop him from taking advantage of it. And then I breathe a sigh of relief: nepotism may be despicable, but it is understandable.

But still ... Cage as Al Capone? Al Capone? Scarface? This is the man who is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for the concept of gangsters as the badasses we know them as today ... and Nicolas Cage is going to be portraying him in a new Untouchables movie?

I get how nepotism works to get a guy that first job, maybe even the second or third job. But how many Ghost Riders or Nexts or Captain Corelli's Mandolins or 8MMs or -- dear god -- City of Angelses must we endure before someone finally says, "Hey, wait, this Cage guy, he's mostly not very good, is he?" Oh, sure, just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, once in a while Cage hits on a project that works for him: Bringing Out the Dead and Lord of War come to mind as recent examples, and Adaptation, of course. But those characters were nothing like Al freakin' Capone. And Cage has probably never been better than he was as the appealing dopes of Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, and Peggy Sue Got Married. Who on Earth thinks, when casting a gangster movie, "Get me the guy who played all those idiots in the '80s!"

When Cage has been good on film in more recent years, it has felt like an accident, or as something incidental to his talent or lack thereof, a function of good material that even he couldn't ruin. People like Cage, for some reason, but I am already marking down Untouchable Babies, or whatever it's called, as a Golden Turkey in the making. They're just asking for it, it seems to me.

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MaryAnn Johanson (email me)

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