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Film

#73: Dying Of The Light (2014)

My name is Ed and I must win the lottery so that I can buy a ticket for Elon Musk’s rocket ship to Mars and escape the crumbling hellhole that used be called the Earth. Because the odds of winning the lottery are quite low, I have decided to increase my chances by picking the numbers based on the films of Nicolas Cage.

Dying Of The Light has the unfortunate distinction of having been publicly disowned by most of the creative minds behind after significant studio meddling with the post-production process. Both writer/director Paul Schrader (best known for writing Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, as well as directing Lindsay Lohan non-classic The Canyons) and the cinematographer were vocal about their disapproval of the final product; photos of cast and crew wearing t-shirts that pointedly quoted the “non-disparagement” clause in their contracts appeared on social media. Which is always a good sign.

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It’s hard to really know whether those complaints are justified, but it does feel like a film that never quite capitalises on its material. It’s got a reasonably compelling premise: Cage is Evan Lake, a CIA agent out for revenge on the terrorist who captured and tortured him 20 years earlier: if he’s going to do this, he has to do it now, because that very torture has left him with a progressive form of dementia. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite know what to do with this, spending a lot of time wandering around on the runway and never quite getting around to taking off.

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At times the movie plays like an ultra-downbeat entry in the Mission Impossible series — there’s a whole sequence involving Lake being made up to look like a Romanian professor (giving Cage the chance to do an… interesting… accent). But the big spy thriller stuff doesn’t sit easily with the smaller moments as Lake struggles to do deal with his condition: there should be an interesting dynamic in the contrast, but instead it never quite feels like the same movie.

Cage has a few fun moments, but while his railing against the modern CIA — “You got your head so far up Obama’s ass you can’t see shit anymore!” — is presumably meant be a reflection of his frustration with his deteriorating mental abilities, really it would be about as effective if he was just a cranky old dude. The tragically late Anton Yelchin puts in a competent but unmemorable turn as sidekick Milton Schultz: like all the characters who aren’t Lake, Schultz is pretty undeveloped. It’s very much a one-man show, which could have worked if the material was stronger — at his best Cage is more than capable of carrying this kind of thing.

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It’s a frustrating film, because there’s definitely the seed of something here, pieces of something more interesting. My suspicion is that this would have been the case to some extent even before the studio hacked it about — but we’ll probably never know, as it’s unlikely anyone’s going to bother funding a director’s cut of a film that was ultimately released on 2 screens before heading straight to DVD. Maybe I’ll fund it if I win big on the lottery!

THE NUMBERS

Unusually, I’ve taken all the numbers from a single scene — Lake sits on bench on a freezing cold Bucharest night, saying numbers to himself as he desperately tries to remember the address of his hotel:

“31… 44… 35… 17… 10… 3…”

THE RESULT

Lottery draw: 2166

Date: Saturday 24 September, 2016

Jackpot: £9,286,909

Draw machine: Merlin

Ball set: 6

Balls drawn: 11,24,34,43,33,47

Bonus ball: 42

Numbers selected: 3,10,17,31,35,44

Matching balls: 0

Numbers selected (lucky dip): N/A

Matching balls (lucky dip): N/A

Winnings: £0 (£0 to date)

Total Profit/Loss: £-144

0 numbers. I guess that’s what you get for attempting to monetise fictional dementia.

NEXT TIME ON NICOLAS CAGE:

The Runner