William Fichtner steals his scenes, Nic Cage goes nuts, and Amber Heard remains hot. Okay, at least it’s better than Ghost Rider, right?
Milton (Nicolas Cage) is a man on a mission, to rescue his daughter’s daughter before she’s made a Satanic sacrifice under the direction of cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke.) After hitching a ride with a fiery ex-waitress named Piper (Amber Heard) driving a black ’69 Dodge Charger, both find themselves being hunted by The Accountant (William Fichtner) who has come to return Milton to where he belongs… in Hell.
It sound like the recipe for a perfect Cage movie, yet it also aspires to some degree of wannabe Quentin Tarantino-inspired madness. Things start off well with the requisite bang and body count followed by Fichtner’s scene-stealing entrance (and continues to own each scene thereafter.) Each gratuitous bit that follows is peppered with clues of what has happened before (including a clever use of 3D to show a flashback in depth while Cage is seen enduring it.) Then as the movie swings from the second to third act, the clues fail to come together, as if whatever the original intent for the film’s big finale was supposed to have been seemed less cool somehow than what they put in. One can only imagine when they actors themselves watched the final cut if they mimicked the audience in thinking, “That’s it?”
The 3D enhancements do little for the film’s action sequences, but nice use was made with a few storytelling elements such as the aforementioned flashback and a few establishing shots that benefited from the visual depth of the technology. Nic Cage himself seems to be game for the absurdity but not actually inspired by it. Scene after scene plays like a Tarantino grindhouse flick with the exception that the effect keeps falling flat and empty. Gratuitous nudity from extras is rampant (not the leads, of course) but is never used to actually further the story. Was there a better cut left on the floor, or would this film have been have benefited from a cast of unknowns and a shoe string budget?
The ending makes everything the characters have endured seem mostly pointless. Worse yet, bizarre things happen without any real explanation of why it is happening, such as the random effect each time a Hell-forged super weapon is fired. The theatrical cut feels either incomplete or incompetent, that either something didn’t get filmed or the studio made a few mandatory suggestions that destroyed a better cut. Whatever happened, it’s a shame, because it IS better than Ghost Rider but had the potential to be so much more.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)