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The Tao of Nicolas Cage: Screaming for ‘Vengeance’ and Love?

Detective Cage is back once again and this time he’s looking for vengeance in a love story.
By  · Published on September 22nd, 2017

Detective Cage is back once again and this time he’s looking for vengeance in a love story.

When I heard Nic Cage was making a movie called Vengeance: A Love Story I was pretty excited, and justifiably so I’d say. I love seeing Cage take vengeance and if you could have him do that while weaving in a love story, well then all the better. So I eagerly waited for this film to come out. And I waited and I waited and I continued to wait some more. It was nearly impossible to find out when the heck the movie was coming out and then last Friday it just appeared on various on-demand services.

Finally, I was able to watch and enjoy Vengeance: A Love Story. Well, watch it anyway.

This is the first time in maybe ever that I was actually disappointed by a Cage movie. I’ve disliked some of his films in the past, sure, but never have I been disappointed. In most cases, I know what I’m getting into and have a pretty good idea of what to expect. I thought that was the case here but I ended up being wrong.

In the film Cage stars as a Niagara Falls police detective. He’s been on the force for 20 years and by all accounts, he’s a pretty great cop. The movie opens up with him and his partner waiting outside what I believe is a meth house. The guy they’re hoping to pick up comes out of the house and as Cage attempts to stop him he makes a run for his van. The suspected meth head makes it to the van and drives it straight at Cage and his partner crashing into the back of their car. Cage’s car whips around and hits him causing him to fly back in the air. Meanwhile, the guy loses control of the van and crashes into a parked car. It’s a pretty spectacular sequence and had me believing I was justified in being excited for this movie. It was all a tease.

Flash forward to what I guess is a month later — this film is really bad at establishing time, more on that to come later — and Cage is hanging out in a bar. While Cage is having a drink in walks a young blonde that heads straight for the juke box. This is Teena (Anna Hutchison) and the bartender quickly delivers her entire backstory to Cage. It’s the most bizarre character intro. The bartender basically says, “Hey Cage, let me get you caught up on Teena,” and then proceeds to give her life’s story.

Naturally, it doesn’t take long before Teena spots Cage and zeroes in on him. She makes her way over to Cage and the two apparently hit it off despite the fact that Cage says nothing. And when I say nothing I literally mean nothing. Teena talks and talks and he just sits there but that works because he gets her digits. Right before she leaves he finally talks, telling her that he has a dead wife.

The story then jumps forward two months, I think because like I said earlier the timeline of this movie doesn’t make a lot of sense. Whatever the case may be Teena is now at a 4th of July party with her daughter and her boyfriend. The boyfriend is some guy that isn’t Cage. After the party, Teena and her daughter walk home and decide to take a shortcut through a dark wooded area. They come to an abandoned house where four shady dudes are hanging out.

Almost immediately the dudes decide to attack Teena and her daughter. It’s almost like they were waiting for Teena but there is no way they would have known she was going to walk by so that’s weird. The daughter manages to hide but Teena can’t get away. The men brutally beat her, rape her and leave her to die.

Cage and his partner stumble across the scene and with the help of the daughter are able to arrest the men responsible.

The goons hire a hot shot lawyer played by Don Johnson. During the arraignment, which is basically treated like a trial in this movie, Johnson slut shames and victim blames and it works. After this, there is no point of a trial because the judge makes it clear he agrees with Johnson. Clearly, Teena was asking for it. This scene ends with Cage alone in the courtroom with an angry look on his face. He just stares, angrily looking at nothing for like a solid minute. It’s actually kind of glorious.

What we know after this court scene is that our legal system is going to fail Teena. There is no way these men are going to jail for what they’ve done. The only way Teena can get justice is through vigilante justice and that’s exactly what Cage plans to do. He’s going to hunt down all four of these men and take care of them himself. Unfortunately, that’s not as cool as it should be.

Vengeance: A Love Story would best be described as Death Wish with a Lifetime twist. Instead of following the vigilante, in this case, Cage, the film is told through the lens of its victims Teena and her daughter. In theory, this is a good idea. Let’s see the victim’s point of view and get a true understanding of what they’re going through. Unfortunately, the film has too many other problems and doesn’t run with this idea enough.

For starters, the timeline of this film is all jacked. In the opening scene, Cage’s partner mentions that his sister-in-law is coming to town for Christmas with her big shot plumber husband. This would lead you to believe the film is taking place sometime around Christmas despite the fact that it looks like summer outside. In the very next scene, we see a newspaper that describes Cage as a hero cop as a result of the events from the opening scene. Cage says that happened all the way back in April which Teena says was only a month ago. And then it’s 4th of July. This film could take place over the course of 4 months or 4 years. I have no idea. Nothing is done to establish the passage of time.

The film does manage to teach us some interesting things about Niagara Falls. Did you know Niagara Falls is an extremely secluded place that no one ever goes to and as such is the ideal spot to meet up and exchange secret information? Well according to this movie it is. Also, you can drive your truck right up to the edge of the Falls which makes it really convenient if you’re looking to push someone over.

My least favorite thing about this movie is that it kills a cat with no real payoff. They just kill a cat because. Eff that noise, man. Cats forever.

My second least favorite part of this movie is that there isn’t much Cage. This movie shouldn’t have tried to tell the story from the victim’s perspective because to do that properly it would have had to be good. Just make this a ridiculous, over-the-top B-movie and you’ve got something. Give me Death Wish III with Cage and I’m all in. Send in hordes of baddies and let Cage mow them all down. That’s a movie I want to see.

Initially, Cage was supposed to direct Vengeance and I desperately wish he would have. I can’t say for sure that it would have been a better movie but it would have been more interesting. At the very least the performances would have been bigger across the board.

Despite the film’s wide variety of issues, I cannot wait for this to come out on Blu-ray. I need some sort of behind-the-scenes interview with Cage giving his thoughts on the film. He always has an interesting take on why he chose a role and I need to know what that take is for this film.

Vengeance: A Love Story fails to deliver on what it promises to be. There is very little vengeance and no love. It’s not the worst of the worst but it’s pretty bland and it’s seriously lacking in Cage. And if a film starring Cage doesn’t have enough Cage then what’s the point?

#CageClub: The Nicolas Cage Podcast

If you want to actually hear me talk about Vengeance: A Love Story then listen to this week’s episode of #CageClub: The Nicolas Cage Podcast where I join hosts Joey and Mike in an attempt to break this film down.

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Chris Coffel is a contributor at Film School Rejects. He’s a connoisseur of Christmas horror, a Nic Cage fanatic, and bad at Rocket League. He can be found on Twitter here: @Chris_Coffel. (He/Him)