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A Score to Settle - The Year of Cage: Chapter 3

Every week, our resident film critic Jeff will be watching and reviewing a Nicolas Cage film. This week? 2019's A Score to Settle.

There aren't any explosions or fire in the 2019 Nicolas Cage movie A Score to Settle. But the background of the movie poster is still covered in flames. I think I could probably leave it at that, and you would understand what 'kind' of movie this, but that dang if that don't defeat the purpose of this project so a per the usual, here's a podcast (above) and 30+ clips & ~2,000 words from and on this joyfully bad revenge flick. Let's go!

First of all, you know a movie is going to kick major ass when it has this many production company bumpers for companies that definitely don't seem real before it:

The movie begins with a flashback scene to the 1980s where a bunch of thugs are torturing a tied up thug by trying (and failing) to hit baseballs at him. We know it is the 1980s because: boombox. It's an insane scene where a young Cage (played by a different actor) tries to teach his boss how to swing the baseball bat properly then goes outside to look for lost baseballs before returning to find said boss brutally beating and ultimately killing the tied up thug with the bat. Just see for yourself:


Cage is imprisoned for almost two decades for the above shenanigans. We later learn that he took the fall on purpose in exchange for two things: $450,000 cash and the promise that his thug pals look after his motherless son. He's actually released early from prison because: insomnia. Checks out:



I'm going to spoil this movie right here and now because it's the only way I know how to do this. This movie is built upon a "twist." What makes the failure of this "twist" that much more condemnable is that it is so clearly aiming for "smart guy filmmaking" territory, and landing not among the borders, not in the periphery, but in a completely different stratosphere. It is a complete failure.

Cage meets his now young adult son in the middle of the road in the middle of the night after being released from the prison because of insomnia. This felt odd! Like, he just shows up in the middle of the road in the middle of the night? They're both walking? The thing with these bad movies is that you are prone to suspend your disbelief when it comes to bad writing and dumbfounded plot mechanics all the time. It was very strange, but at no point was I thinking to myself "Oh, this is a Ghost Son." But, lo and behold, this is a Ghost Son! This is also a baseball movie:


If you're wondering who the heck that baseball player on that card is supposed to be, I'm right there with you. There's not much information on a team called the Portland Gladiators let alone a player named Joe Kenneth (this film is set in Oregon, although that isn't important and never specifically comes up outside of this card), but I was able to scrounge up this:
Congratulations on your minor league championship in your only year of existence in 1896! That is such a weird fake baseball card to make! In this reality, are the Portland Gladiators a real team, perhaps even a pro team? They must be if this card is worth a lot of money, right? Who cares! There is so much more garbage to get to.

We are then subjected to the first of many incredibly bad music choices with an atrocious singer-songwriter song set to some b-roll of the Northwestern landscape and some primo "I'm a free man" faces by Cage as he basks in the sun:


They get to a super fancy resort hotel that we learn Cage's late wife took him to before he went to prison. You know, the kind of romantic place you want to revisit with your adult son whom you haven't seen in 19 years. Cage makes the first of many inexplicable "jokes" that do not land at all, but which I find endlessly funny because of that fact:


Then Cage gives one of the hotel employees a tip and he has a really good tipping style:

One more time, enhanced:



Cage is super excited that their hotel room has six showerheads:


Then we get the first vague indication that his Son is perhaps a Ghost Son (a figment of Cage's imagination), as Cage is forced to order a ton of expensive food and dine on it alone:



We then get some more father-son bonding with some more baseball-themed memories. We learn Cage made and sold (!) baseball bats in prison. Theat famous prison activity of making to-order wooden baseball bats for profit, ah yes. We also learn that when Cage says "Noo" like that, he really means YES:

Cage goes to see the gun salesman Sleepy, but Sleepy is dead. However, Sleepy's kid (female) is there and she sells him a nice and good gun, fresh off the boat from Italy:

We're then introduced to Benjamin Bratt's character (people just call him Q now) and learn that Cage's character is named "Frankie Fingers" LoL:



The problem with this being a Fight Club type scenario is that there are far too many scenes when he and his son are together in public. For every "hint" we get that this might be Cage's warped reality, we get scenes like the next two clips. Ghost Son just gets fitted with a suit at a store? How? And furthermore, the cause and resolution of this phenomena makes little to no sense. Is he hallucinating because of the fatal sporadic insomnia? Is he knowingly projecting because he can't psychologically deal with the loss? We'll get to more of this later, but for now enjoy my two favorite scenes in the entire movie. Scene #1, he Pretty Woman's the hell out of his Ghost Son:

And Scene #2, a painfully awkward conversation that takes place back at the hotel after their shopping spree. Ghost Son tells his dad that he should chat up the prostitute who is getting her shoes on literally ten feet away from them. Remember: HE IS NOT REAL. HE IS NOT THERE. CAGE IS TALKING TO HIMSELF. His delivery of these "jokes," however? That's a different story all together; the realest shit ever:


It doesn't get any better than that, folks. No, really... it doesn't 🤡

Before meeting up with the hooker Simone, Cage had a run-in with her pimp. You know, the kind of pimp who hangs around outside super posh resorts way outside of town (the classic pimp spot):


We get more "jokes" that fails to make any contact whatsoever. Here are two:




More excruciating dialogue:
At this point, we're about halfway through this garbage and it's easy to forget that it is in fact a revenge movie since there's been very little by way of, you know, getting revenge. So Cage tries to get some revenge on one of the thug underlings called Dragon and is casually very misogynistic in the process of failing to get that said revenge:


After Dragon escapes, Cage has this really weird and tonally off encounter with Ghost Son where the latter refers to having sex as "making mercury," which super grossed me out for some reason and I am sorry but I will not be googling to see if that is an actual term people use for having sex:


Part of the reason why the Ghost Son "twist" doesn't work is that we know this kid is a junkie, he looks like a junkie; all his sudden disappearances and funny behavior are easily explained by that.

Anyway, Cage tracks down another thug and this guy just immediately gives himself up and is shot in the head while Cage eats a Slim Jim:

Then Cage sings the Judy Garland era standard "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" as he has a confrontational sing-song chat with Benjamin Bratt at the bar:

Here is the original Garland rendition of that song for reference:

An increasingly delirious Cage commonderes a bellboy and gets him to teach him how to use a smartphone:


Cage puts whiskey on his face while the bellboy looks up every nursing home in the state so that Cage can hunt down the elderly thug boss and beat him to death with a baseball bat:

But the pimp from before shows up to compare sex workers to "feral cats" and to briefly thwart Cage's masterplan, but Cage is armed and ready with some combat moves and some "egg" puns:
Then we get The Big Reveal™ of the "twist." It just happens. There's no real inciting incident. He just visits his wife's grave, glances over and sees the grave of his son and acts like that was his reality the entire time?!? WHAT:

I was, of course, anticipating a stupid twist. But the rub of this is that if Cage actually believed his son was alive AND the thugs came through with the $450,000, why was even interested in getting revenge in the first place? We're also immediately alerted to the fact that Q (Bratt's character) is actually the real bad guy and the head thug Max in the nursing home has actually been a vegetable for almost as long as Cage was locked away in jail. No need to beat a helpless coma victim with a 20-year-old bloodstained baseball bat! It was actually Q's fault his son is dead. That's good I guess:

Before he stopped by the nursing home, Cage returned Simone's scarf which flew off her head earlier in the movie, which was very thoughtful of him:

Simone's son is named Joey, because: OF COURSE HE FUCKING IS!

He blows Dragon's dick off:

Cage goes to the church to confront Q on Q's daughter's wedding day, and Cage has his full-on Cageian freak-out moment that was brewing the entire time:

And that's basically it. Total unearned bullshit all the way around, anyway you look at it. There are some awkward flashbacks to the thugs actually executing Joey, and Cage is watching it happen somehow in his memory? Q's daughter––a character we've just met for the first time––is the one who shoots Cage for some reason but the bullet is basically ineffective? No worries, Cage staggers out of the church and there are a bunch of cops waiting outside the church to unload a ton of bullets in slow-motion into our anti-hero's body. Ghost Son returns one more time (this time in Official Ghost Attire) to say what is on everyone's mind watching the film at home, that "this kinda sucks..."

Ghost Son asks his dad what he's gonna do now and Cage says he's gonna ask God to forgive him and then Ghost Son just laughs at that??? Jesus christ...

In many ways, this is the worst of the three films I've had to endure thus far and it's not even close. So why am I giving it a 7? Because I found it to be truly, legitimately "so bad it's good." Whereas 8mm and 211 both had a few of those moments, those elements, they were largely snoozefests. Part of the reason I started this project was to uncover a few hidden gems among the late 2010s Cage collection, and I can proudly say that I found one.



THE VERDICT: 7 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? Adaptation!

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

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