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Film

#82: Vengeance – A Love Story (2017)

My name is Ed, and I used to watch Nicolas Cage films in what turned out to be a futile attempt to win the lottery.

Cage claims to have used a method he calls the nouveau shamanic to channel mystical energy into his screen performances, and my theory was that by picking numbers based on these performances, that I could somehow channel this energy into positive outcomes for myself, i.e. winning millions of pounds on the UK National Lottery. It didn’t work, but shortly after I stopped doing this twice weekly, Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America. Does this mean anything?

Currently, it is 2020. Nicolas Cage has somehow made SEVENTEEN films since I last did this, and as it stands everything is so bad that it does not seem likely that attempting to invoke the nouveau shamanic again can make things worse.

I suspect Vengeance – A Love Story started as a bit of a prestige project – it’s based off a novella by Joyce Carol Oates, and at one point was going to star Samuel L Jackson, with either Uma Thurman or Heather Graham. Somewhere along the line things went slightly wrong and we ended up with this straight to DVD effort starring Nicolas Cage. Who was at one point going to direct it as well, but presumably realised it would have got in the way of attempting to appear in 43 other films that year.

The first ominous sign is the font the opening credits are in – I don’t know what font it is, and I don’t want to shame it: it’s not a bad font, or a stupid font. But it is a very ‘this was a default in the editing software’ font. Almost professional enough looking to be used in a real film. Almost.

‘Vengeance’ is in some ways fairly straightforward adaptation of the source material, but the adjustment to the original title (‘Rape – A Love Story’), is reflected in the slightly timid, melodramatic approach to the story, which is that of Teena, a young mother who is gang-raped, her daughter, who witnesses it, and their struggle to get justice when the legal system seems to be failing them.

While the lead performances are, for what they are, fine, much of the rest of the cast appears to have been directed to play to ‘cartoon villain’ level: everyone (especially the double evil cat-murdering perpetrator played by an actor who might as well change his name by deed poll to ‘Budget Jared Leto’, and the ‘even Eric Roberts is busy for this’ money-hungry defence lawyer who inexplicably rides in and out of town on a gigantic silver motorbike) is so gleeful about stacking the deck against Teena that it verges on self-parody, as if it’s going for a knowing, ‘See, this is what STUPID LIBERALS think small towns are like!’ effect.

We never have to be in any doubt about what needs to happen – hey, it’s right there in the title – and who’s just walked in, it’s Nicolas Cage!

Cage’s presence in the film, as police detective John Dromoor, has an odd effect – in terms of run time the bulk of the story remains that of the mother and daughter, but his presence causes the film to swerve from Lifetime movie to pound shop thriller as he metes out perfunctory vigilante justice as we the audience all cheer and wave our big foam fingers.

This mildly threatens to derail things, but it never actually gets interestingly bad. His subdued performance has its moments – for some reason I was taken with his deadpan statement to the kid that his favourite cartoon character is Daffy Duck – but given how silly much of the rest of what’s going on is, there’s no reason he couldn’t do some classic ‘losing his shit’ as he takes his vengeance. It’s almost as if he’s trying to respect something from the original book that no-one else in the film seems that bothered about. But the unfortunate result is that the king of tonally uneven movies had abdicated his throne when he’s most needed.

THE NUMBERS

3 – The detective served in the army for 3 years which included the Gulf War. Cage is a bit old for the role as written in the original book, so while the passage of time between publication and filming does still make this a plausible detail, it does push it into boringly familiar dad (or at least ersatz father figure) defends his family territory.

4 – The ‘inciting incident’ takes place after a 4th of July party. There was a 4th of July party in Arsenal, but I don’t think it was the same 4th of July party.

6 – Teena is treated for her injuries in Intensive Care Unit 6.

12 – The daughter is 12 years old. Unless she is 10, or possibly 11: the film seems weirdly hazy on this, though it’s not always exactly clear how much time is supposed to have passed between scenes.

20 – Budget Jared Leto bets Teena’s sort of boyfriend 20 dollars that a man will lose a boxing matching. He doesn’t lose the boxing match, and then Budget Jared Leto gets shot in the head by Nicolas Cage. Owned!

24 – The last villain to be dispatched is lured to room 24 of a motel. He’s lured by a phone call (that we hear) from a woman claiming to be an old school friend, but when he arrives he gets Caged to death. Who is that woman? It’s a credited role so isn’t supposed to be anyone else we’ve met pretending, unless I missed something. Did Detective Dromoor hire an actress? Was there a cut sequence where he auditions people for their convincing phone manner? Or did I just zone out while trying to find numbers in the background of shots and start missing key chunks of dialogue?

I think I will win something this time. I think it will be a sign that watching all the films Nicolas Cage has made since I stopped doing this is the right thing to do.

THE RESULT

Lottery draw: 2590

Date: Saturday 17 October, 2020

Jackpot: £3,800,000

Draw machine: Arthur

Ball set: 2

Balls drawn: 26,32,38,41,49,51

Bonus ball: 46

Numbers selected: 3,4,6,12,20,24

Matching balls: 0

Numbers selected (lucky dip): N/A

Matching balls (lucky dip): N/A

Winnings: £0 (£0 to date)

Total Profit/Loss: £-162

Ah, well. Clearly a test of my commitment. Anyway, I am only going to do the Saturday lottery this time, so see you in a week for another definite solid gold classic that will definitely will me the lottery: Inconceivable, starring Nicolas Cage.