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211 - The Year of Cage: Chapter 2

Every week, our resident film critic Jeff will be watching and reviewing a Nicolas Cage. This week? 2018's 211.

211 is also a bad film.  We are 0 for 2, folks. But it is not bad in the way that the 1999 Joel Schumacher feature we dissected last week is bad. It is, for the most part, lovingly bad. When it is not so, it is very boringly bad. This latter type of bad is among the worst types of bad and, as such, I cannot score this 2018 "bank heist" action flick higher than a 4. (OH YEAH! we're doing a new scoring system; listen to the episode for a super exciting explanation!)

This film about a bank heist GONE WRONG set in Whereversville, Mass (BASTon accents galore) of course begins in Afghanistan. I'm being sarcastic. The entire subplot / backstory of our bad guys is beyond undercooked. It does not need to exist. At the end of this clip I am about to insert, one of the bad guys says they are going to do things the "hard way." What follows is the most literal definition of that, because the nerdy bad guy offered to just get them the money. Just watch this delirious opening sequence:


So instead of using their bad guy might to pressure the nerd into getting them the cash without the hassle and incredibly low odds of completing a bank heist (they had already shot him in the kneecap), they kill the nerd, go fully AWOL, return to the states with a cache of weapons and explosives and we're off to the races.

Creating motivation in these otherwise dumb action movies isn't always easy and is executed in practical terms even more rarely. But here's the thing: It isn't even necessary! These guys could have just been "guys who like to rob banks." Their being ex-military here means nothing; it isn't connected to the town in New England, to Cage's character, to anything. Perhaps we should acknowledge their even attempting this conflict/motivational backstory as a noble try, but it's clear from how little they're on screen after this opening that the whole international war profiteering mercenary bit is its own separate movie, perhaps the beginning of another failed screenplay. The director of 211 (cop code for Robbery used in California?!? we'll get to this later) is someone by the name of York Shackleton. Ostensibly a different person than the York ALEC Shackleton billed as the writer of the screenplay that this screenplay was based on:


A screenplay being based on a screenplay is some kind of hellish Inception vibe that was hurting my brain but then this kid gets a swirly in a flushless urinal and I went back to feeling nothing:
This kid (Kenny) is the definition of a trope. Misguided youth who isn't really misguided at all, just misunderstood because white people in Boston are racist, who gets sent on a "scared straight" type cop ride-along even though he's the one being bullied, and inevitably is thrust into hero mode when shit hits the fan and––SPOILER––he has to shoot and kill one of the bad guys. You know what I'm talking about.

Nicolas Cage plays a grumpy widower townie cop. He does not speak until 20 minutes into this thing. Because this is a project related entirely to Nicolas Cage, I think it's worth nothing. The entire genesis of this project is tied to this recent era of Cage, to explore his choices in making movies that seem almost impossibly bad if not instantly forgettable, and making them at a breakneck speed taboot. His performance here is actually fine. We get one outstanding flip-out scene (which I'll post later on), and in general he seems to be giving a crap given the material. I still have no clue as to WHY he would want to make this movie or all these movies 'like' it. Hopefully the answer to that will reveal itself as we progress.

Meanwhile, the people at the bank are doing bank stuff:


Yup, bank stuff. That checks out. This exact same "joke" is made twice in two totally different scenarios within a 10-minute stretch:


One of the most ridiculous aspects of this is how strangely violent it is. Not necessarily in terms of gore, but the innocent person death toll is crazy high. For example, the bad guys do a terrorist attack on a coffee shop as a diversion, and many many people are killed and/or maimed. Whatcha gonna do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is probably a good time to mention that (allegedly) this plot is based on this real life story. I only know this from the lede of the film's Wikipedia page which reads, "It is based on the 1997 North Hollywood shootout." Oh, so this is where they got the title of the film! In terms of 'anything' being 'based on' anything else, this has to be ranked near or at the very bottom as far as that phrase meaning a single damn thing. It is 'based on' the "1997 North Hollywood shootout" insomuch as it also 'based on' every attempted bank robbery in human history. C'est la vie. I just wish that these two had their own spin-off television franchise:

Foreshadowing, baby! You gotta love it.

Among the many convoluted side plots and whathaveyou, there is actually a––dare I say––interesting thread about the idea of surveillance throughout. Specifically related to how the prevalence of smartphones impact American law enforcement on a daily basis. I mean, it's completely trampled on and muddied by every other nonsensical thing happening (I haven't even mentioned the International Spy Babe character) but, like, it's not a bad idea?

We check in with the actual bank robbery from time to time for some absolutely A+ line reads:


Otherwise, what you need to know of this plot is that, sadly, Nicolas Cage is not doing a bad Boston accent, and his cop partner is actually his son-in-law, who NATURALLY found out earlier that same day that his wife, Cage's semi-estranged daughter, is pregnant.

He gets shot in the leg and almost dies because he doesn't know how to take his seatbelt off:

It's basically Kenny's fault that he is dying because he doesn't know how to treat gunshot wounds. Stupid, teenager!

Tough stuff. Especially when the enemy has...

Anyway Cage's son-in-law makes Kenny take a video to show his wife and unborn child My Life-style in case he dies:



Kenny takes refuge in a nearby car and MacGyvers a cellphone charger out of some babydoll parts and a random 9v battery that he finds inside the car. His magic cellphone charger allows him to make exactly one phone call... to his mom, who just happens to be the head nurse at the hospital treating what feels like hundreds of patients from these suburban Massachusetts warzones.


We have to wait until 67 minutes into this 86-minute long movie to see Cage go full Cage, but it's definitely worth it:

International Spy Babe has been on the case since Afghanistan (remember that??); she works for INTERPOL (not the band). She has this amusing interaction with Chief of Police Tony Bologna but is otherwise a completely unnecessary character who I suppose is filling the quota of obligatory "babe" characters:



The final 15-20 minutes of the flick is a predictable clusterfuck. Cage goes rogue and steals one of the Super Cop's machine guns. He saves Kenny and they have an awkward hug:

There are lots of explosions and people getting shot. This lady has something in her pocket:

Ultimately, Cage and Kenny and even International Spy Babe save the day, I GUESS. I mean, so many people died but whatever. They're not real people. International Spy Babe and Chief of Police Tony Bologna have a moment together:

The film flash-forwards one year into the future...

Cage is going for a jog, the greatest symbolism for "life is OK." Kenny is basically part of the family now and they are throwing Cage a surprise birthday party. Everyone has made up and life is good. Son-in-law cop did not die from hyperglycemic shock or whatever. Their baby is clearly not a real baby actor but a doll wrapped up in blankets but then it is a real baby in the close-up shot except many months older than it would have been. Cage wants to "take some new pics." A badly photoshopped image of Cage, his daughter and his deceased wife that was previously in a box because of FEELINGS is now on prominent display:

Nic Cage's real life son Weston is also in this thing. Here is a picture of Weston at the grand opening of a Hollywood vape shop:


I remember thinking to myself as I watched this that he kinda looked like a fat, young Nicolas Cage, those eyes, man... little did I know. He was very few lines in this, as do all of the bad guys. It's not a good movie. But we have fun. Anyway, that's all I got.



THE VERDICT: 4 CAGES OUT OF 10

Every Friday, www.VernonHowl.com is proud to bring you a new entry into our project THE YEAR OF CAGE, wherein the entire filmography of Nicolas Cage will be watched + reviewed in alphabetical order. Next week? A Score to Settle!

Bang it here for all our 𝔗𝔥𝔢 𝔜𝔢𝔞𝔯 𝔬𝔣 ℭ𝔞𝔤𝔢 content. Shalom.

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