Nicolas Cage in: Deadfall


Released in 1993 ▪ Review posted August 24, 2014

“Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not 10. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at 10. You’re on 10 here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on 10 on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?”

Nigel Tufnel (This Is Spinal Tap)

A hater might say that Nicolas Cage wades in the shallow end of the Coppola family talent pool, out of his depth when compared to Sofia, Roman, and Francis Ford. That person has never heard of Nicolas Cage’s brother, Christopher Coppola, writer and director of this week’s terrible 1993 film Deadfall.

Deadfall is a neo-noir thriller about con men starring Michael Biehn. There’s a reason Biehn is better known for killing cyborgs and aliens, and it’s that he can’t act. He is unconvincing in his role as a savvy con man working through a web of boring plot twists. Typically I’d make some effort to describe the film’s plot, but the plot of Deadfall is so convoluted and unrewarding to both watch and write about that I will focus only on the portion that features our hero.

Around act two, Biehn’s character Joe Donan meets his uncle Lou, played by James Coburn. How an actor with the talent and prestige of James Coburn made it into this film, I will never know. However it happened, Coburn plays yet another professional con man decked out with all the necessary con man accessories, like a bat-shit crazy henchman named Eddie. Eddie is Nic Cage. Eddie is also the only reason to watch this movie. Not because Cage’s portrayal is somehow masterful or revolutionary, but because it is so unrestrained, so incomparably and bizarrely maniacal, that his oddball antics become the pulse of a mystery that would have otherwise flatlined from the first scene. See for yourself! Here are some of Cage’s highlights from the film.

Nic starts at an 11 and only gets louder. It isn’t good but you can’t turn away. Like Al Pacino in Scarface, if your choice is to make your character screaming and unintelligible, you are not doing it right. I’m all for Cage’s presentational approach. I embrace the idea of Nouveau Shamanic. But you can’t sweep bad acting under a presentational rug. Cage is just much too much here. None of his reactions are believable, and none of his character’s actions are even within the realm of possibility. It’s unconstrained Cage at his worst and it’s kind of embarrassing. Not only is this a poor use of his skills, it’s also more proof that he needs a director who knows how to find a balance between Cage’s unbridled and restrained sides.

Eventually, Eddie is put out of his misery when his head is shoved into a deep fryer. The movie quickly deflates like a bounce house, having previously been filled only by Cage’s ongoing theatrical catastrophe. Towards the end Charlie Sheen shows up as a pool shark but even he can’t help, and, if you can imagine, is way more restrained than Cage was.

What else is there to say about Deadfall?

Oh yes.

Don’t watch Deadfall.

How was the movie?
How was Nic Cage’s acting?
Did his performance make the movie worse?
Oddly, no