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Good or Bad? Rating Every Nicolas Cage Performance

on June 09, 2016, 12:00am
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Racing with the Moon (1984)

Cage smolders in another war weeper, as the hunky Nicky here. Nicky’s best buds with Hopper (Sean Penn), and the two are waiting to fight in WWII. Cage’s Nicky is the wild card of the duo. He wants to live and let live. Get drunk. Chase girls. Lift his shirt, pick a fight, and howl at the moon, fearing what might happen on the battlefield. Tank-topped and too-cool-for-school, Cage was everybody’s bad best friend. Maybe it’s the pensive eyes or the intense eyebrows, but that brash attitude of his was right there early on, and he’s more amusing than a wannabe-charming Penn.

Good or Bad?

Good.

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The Cotton Club (1984)

As Vincent Dwyer, Cage barely registers as a criminal hothead in The Cotton Club. But to be fair, The Cotton Club barely registered as well. The most dramatic component of Coppola’s excessive period drama was the history of its ballooned production schedule and budget. Cast and crew came and went amid bad publicity, rumored fights, and bankruptcy looming at every turn. It feels like an insecure mid-‘80s Coppola film. New York Magazine’s 22-page spread on the production is insane and well worth the read. An auteur done in by excess. And it’s far more fun than anything Cage does in The Cotton Club.

The final film is just fine, and Cage plays the little brother of Richard Gere. He uses the n-word a lot (the film’s set in the ‘30s, but it’s still uncomfortable). A tough but dumb caricature. Nice pencil mustache, though. Very dapper.

But not even a healthy amount of family ties could get the hot-head Cage better screen time.

Good or Bad?

Bad.

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Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

Cage looks like a Corn Pop. With the nerdy, nasal voice, the big whitecap teeth, and that slick, outrageous blonde pompadour, Cage’s Charlie is a spry, awkward youth, but affable in an embarrassing sort of way. He croons, falsettos, and hiccups through bitter teen rage, or uses the third person to describe himself and ooze false confidence, and it’s all a more mature and contained performance than you’d expect from a younger actor. Cage based his voice on Pokey’s from The Gumby Show! How could Charlie’s whole being not scream “acting commitment”?

Good or Bad?

Good.

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The Boy in Blue (1986)

To The Boy in Blue’s credit, Cage is cut as hell, and there’s something hysterically anachronistic about watching Cage get a little unhinged in a turn-of-the-century, stuffy rowing drama (“GET UP! HARVARD MAN!” he screams in a fancy bow tie). Yet, this was not the right time for this Cage un-caged. Anyone named “Ned Hanlin” deserves to get pantsed.

Good or Bad?

Bad.

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Moonstruck (1987)

Here’s where we might get into matters of taste and preference, but anyone who says that Cage overdoes it in Moonstruck can go straight to hell. HE LOST HIS HAND! HE LOST HIS BRIDE! Forget the wild hair, the sanded-down Italian coo. Cage is full of actor-ly intensity here. A young Pacino.

Cage has so much beautiful onscreen rage in Moonstruck; it’s as though that rich vein of crazy was mined perfectly by Hollywood great Norman Jewison and then finely shaped by the whimsical words of John Patrick Shanley. Cage fumes, bubbles, and commands attention. Think he’s nuts about losing a hand? You lose a hand and not be petulant afterward. Yet when he went romantic in Moonstruck, taking Cher to the Met and showing his passion for like, baking breads and seeing the opera and stuff, it was so unexpected and so unbelievably welcoming. Cage deservedly broke out with Moonstruck.

Good or Bad?

Good.

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