Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deadfall (1993)

Wow...just, wow.

This movie first came to my attention around the time "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" was in theaters. I'm a big Nicholas Cage fan, and I recognize that the 2000's have not been as kind to Cage as the first couple decades of his career, but I still think he's put out some good films here and there. What's most important about Cage isn't necessarily the quality of the film, but rather what he brings to it. He's a risk-taker, and yes, he's sometimes waaaaayyyy over-the-top, but he rarely, if ever, phones it in.

Before I get to "Deadfall," I want to attempt to put it into some sort of relate-able context. If you're a reading this, you like movies, and you probably like movies a lot, maybe even enough to have tried making a few yourself. If you're one of those people who've made a low budget film or two, honestly, how were they? Probably not that good, maybe not that bad either, but you're probably not busting down people's door to show them to anybody. If this sounds like you or someone you know then you've probably seen what an inexperienced filmmaker's movie can be like. Some of the calling cards are broad caricatures, cliched scenarios, too much exposition (usually through unnecessary voice-over narration), and lackluster, lifeless performances.

All of these element come into play in Christopher (brother of Nicholas Cage/Nephew of Francis Ford) Coppola's 1993 ne0-Noir. According to his bio, Christopher had been making films (usually starring his brother) since he was kid, he had at least one other feature under his belt prior to "Deadfall."

I think I'll take this opportunity to discuss an aspect of film-making/film-viewing that I've always meant to address in one of my reviews, but have just never found the right time to do so. There is a sub-culture of movie watchers who enjoy movies that are "so bad they're good," and I've known many of them and seen many of their favorite bad movies. "Deadfall" is one those type of films, so I'm going to address my theory as to what makes those movie work and what doesn't. Essentially, it comes down to sincerity. A bad movie is only truly funny when the film-maker sincerely tried to make a good movie, but failed. There is no humor in intending to make a bad movie.

"Deadfall" is a bad movie, but it's very entertaining. The voice-over narration by Micheal Biehn ("The Terminator") is among the worst I've ever heard. The characters are more like thin concepts meant to be cool than actual real people. The performances, for the most part, are wooden, Biehn and Peter Fonda almost seem as if they're doing Coppola a favor and are more or less being forced to act. James Coburn is the only one who brings any levity to the material, the only one really trying to take it seriously.

That being said, there are 3 performances in this movie worth watching it for. The first, and easily the most talked about and fucking insane, is that of Nicholas Cage, as Eddie. It's hard to put into words what the hell Cage is doing in this movie, but I honestly think it has something to do with him tapping into his Id. There's no other way to describe then to say that Cage seems to be in some other movie altogether (well for at least for the first 2/3rds), he's on another planet. I can only imagine that he was trying to bring something original to a holy unoriginal work. Vagueness aside, his performance at time reminded me of the great Timothy Carey.

The last third of the movie has two inexplicable characters, Charlie Sheen's Fat's Gripp (a absurdly suave pool player) and Angus Scrimm's Dr Lyne (some bizarre amalgamation of Dr. Evil, Dr. Claw, and Edward Scissorhands). Coppola's Aunt, Talia Shire, is in one scene as a bartender. Micky from the Monkees is in it for some reason. Oh, and the plot twist at the end is stupid. Like I said, "Deadfall" is a bad movie, but Coppola's sincere effort comes across, and though I laughed quite a bit in the last 90 minutes, I wholeheartedly respect his film.

Here's a song by the band Snot that's pretty much explains the entire plot of the movie.

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