I have a theory about how Nicholas Cage picks scripts. His agent hands him a pile to read and Cage hands them right back after saying “I’ll take them all”. 343 days have passed this year, and I’m pretty sure Nichols Cage has made 342 movies.
This is a movie that had a lot of drama to start with, when the notably temperamental Paul Schrader left the movie after he stated changes were made to just about everything without his consent. Apparently, he had so much trouble with the changes, he got a couple of partners from the movie, Nichols Cage and Executive producer Nicholas Winding Rern to wear T-shirts featuring their non-disparagement agreements from their contracts. I guess it was their way of speaking out against the changes when they really couldn’t speak out. Based on how little faith the main players in the movie had in it, I was expecting to see a massive flop.
My expectations were met.
The movie stars Evan Lake (Cage), a CIA employee who, 22 years after being captured and tortured by a Muslim fundamentalist named Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim), receives two pieces of life changing news. First, he has a degenerative brain condition that is leading to complete dementia. Second, the man who captured and tortured him years before might still be alive. With the help of Milton (Yelchin), a CIA colleague, Lake decides to go rogue and find Banir himself. On its face, this is a ‘nothing left to lose’ action movie. The problem with it is that they tried to make it more artistic than action.
Schaeder, who wrote Taxi Driver, knows how to mix action and intellect, so I’m starting to think that there is something to be said of the changes they made without his permission. The pacing of the final product is awkward. There is no intellect. Instead, there is about an hour of vigorous patriotism and the belief that America has lost all its values. Instead of coming across as an intelligent review of the current state of our country, it comes across as more soldier sniffing and lecturing.
The scenes cut around and don’t seem like they’re cognitively melded together. The movie jumps around a lot, but not in a clever way. In addition, there’s very little build. I mean, Lake is hunting down a man who is so ill he can’t even get out of his chair.
I can’t blame Schrader for this mess, nor can I blame the leads. Whoever put the final work together did a sloppy job and clearly lost whatever meaning Schrader was going for. Without seeing it uncut, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine the Schrader would have done things a lot differently.
This movie is an action movie without the tension. When you’re dealing with ‘nothing to lose’ characters, you tread the line of making people not care about them. In this case, I felt like I never got to know them. This was an intellectual movie that only scratched the surface of the conflicts America faces right now. It was a bit like asking a 15-year-old their views on politics.
Dying of the Light was a disappointing effort. Even more unsettling, the leads were disappointed with it before it ever came out. My suggestions are that moviegoers avoid this one… and that Nicholas Cage actually starts reading the scripts before he accepts the part.
WE GAVE IT: 2 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!