The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent movie

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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

There are actors. And then there are legends.

Nick Cage is sure that he belongs in that latter category. Sure, he’s done some less than Oscar-worthy films recently. In fact, some have been direct-to-video bits of dreck that have simply paid the bills and little more.

But he was good in all of them. A legend always knows good! He also knows … when to call it quits. And that’s where Nick Cage is now.

Nick recently lost the role of a lifetime he was vying for. His ex-wife and daughter both kinda hate him. And he’s slightly drunk and slumped down in front of a hotel room that he’s been unceremoniously locked out of. It feels as if the world as he knows it is crumbling.

He’s even gone through a typical argument with younger Nick—an imaginary, blazing young version of himself that pops up to urge him forward in his more downcast moments. But he still can’t muster the oomph to keep being … legendary.

In fact, his only viable course of action feels like a depressing one. He’ll have to take some cheesy birthday party gig his agent pushed his way. (Can you believe that!? Nick Cage as a birthday clown!?) But it pays a cool $1 million. And it will allow Nick to pay off his $600,000 hotel bill and start a new non-acting chapter in life. Still, this party is bound to be a geeky gawk-fest. Ugh.

Do Nick reluctantly flies to the exclusive property of this guy named Javi Gutierrez. It’s a pretty top-shelf place. But still, he’s afraid this dude will want some kind of kinky sexual favor or something. I mean he is paying a million bucks.

What Nick finds, however, is unexpected. I mean, yes, this Javi guy is a bit of a fanboy who’s not only seen all of Nick’s, uh, lesser-known films, but has collected memorabilia from them. And he gushingly hopes that Nick might just read his screenplay. But there’s something else surprising here: Nick can’t help but like this guy.

They have the same taste in films, literature … booze. And when they start hanging out and goofing around together it almost feels like a schoolboy sugar rush. They even sit and cry together while watching Paddington 2. They click the way good friends do. And Nick hasn’t had a good friend in a good a long while.

In the midst of this positive vibe, however, the oddest thing happens. Nick is approached by agents from the CIA who tell him that his million-dollar paycheck isn’t exactly legit. Javi is the head of a ruthless cartel, they tell him. His men have kidnapped a politician’s daughter. And if Nick doesn’t man-up and help the US government, that girl may even be killed.

It’s just not fair. The universe has given Nick another swift kick just as he felt that something good might be leaning his way. Just as he finds a friend, that guy turns out to be a ruthless killer. It’s not fair …  

ARRGH!

… though truthfully Nick always did think he might be cut out for the spy game.

I mean, he is legendary.

Positive Elements

Nick not only helps the CIA, but when he discovers that their intel is skewed, he takes steps to save the lives of two people who’re in danger. Nick’s relationship with his daughter is greatly improved by the end of the film, and he deliberately chooses his family over his career. He’s rewarded for doing so, the film ending on a quiet declaration that the simple joys of time spent with loved ones is a thing of utmost value.

[Spoiler Warning] In truth, Javi isn’t exactly the man the CIA agents believe him to be. And eventually he and Nick become good friends who make sacrifices to help one another. Javi even takes steps to aid Nick in repairing his relationship with both his daughter and his ex-wife. And Nick eventually apologizes to both women for not being present as the husband and dad that they deserved.  For his part, Nick encourages Javi in his relationship and in other life choices.

Spiritual Elements

Javi and Nick talk about two characters in a script being “kinda like dueling Christ figures.” Nick walks to a monastery that’s being used as a hideout for criminals.

Sexual Content

After agreeing to do the birthday party, Nick worries that Javi will want him to either perform a sexual act on him or watch as he has sex with someone else.

Nick and his agents wear only in towels at a day spa. And Nick mentions that some young person thought Humphrey Bogart was a porn star.

After a discussion with his imaginary younger self, the younger Nick grabs the older and kisses him then cries out, “Nick Cage smooches good!” Javi kisses a woman he loves.

Violent Content

What starts out as something of a character study eventually evolves into a thumping thriller. We see car chases in which vehicles careen through the streets, smashing into bikes, walls and other vehicles. Trucks and cars flip and crash. Several different individuals get hit by vehicles and thrown to the ground—in a couple cases flying off speeding motorcycles.

Multiple gun fights involve combatants with pistols and automatic weapons. Some moments are played for laughs, but others are much more serious. A guy has a gun shoved into his temple threateningly. He’s told to kill someone or be killed himself. Men are shot in the shoulder and back, stabbed in the leg and chest. A couple people jump off a high precipice into the ocean water below.

We don’t see the bloody results of any of these violent clashes, but we do see some slumped-over bodies of people who have been shot and killed. Two teen girls are kidnapped and held at gunpoint while bound and kneeling together. The imaginary young Nick slaps and later punches his older self. During a kidnapping, a young woman is punched in the face and knocked to the ground unconscious.

Crude or Profane Language

There are more than 60 f-words and 30 s-words in the dialogue mix, along with four uses of “son of a b–ch” and several uses each of “d–n,” “h—” and “a–hole.”

Jesus and God’s names are misused some 20 times (with the latter combined with “d–n” in three of those instances).

Drug and Alcohol Content

After Nick loses a film role that he desperately wanted, he starts drinking heavily. His abundant consumption of wine, beer and hard liquor runs pretty much throughout the film. Javi starts drinking heavily too after they meet. And he also suggests that they take LSD together, which they do. People drink at parties.

A couple smokes weed. Nick and Javi smoke cigarettes. Nick touches his own face with a drug-covered palm-patch and then struggles with the potentially lethal drug’s effects until retrieving an antidote and jamming the needle into his leg.

Other Negative Elements

Nick and his daughter, Addy, go to therapy near the beginning of the film; he is oblivious to how his constant need for attention is causing her anxiety issues. Addy talks about her fear that her dad would reject her if she didn’t like the things he liked.

Conclusion

Nicolas Cage isn’t the first Hollywood actor to play himself in an offbeat movie. But there are few, if any, who have done it with such panache.

As odd and quirky as the trailer for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent may seem, the movie itself plays out as a fresh and well-constructed bit of entertainment. Nick Cage and company present a deft, meta-balancing act of engaging humor that’s both self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating at the same time.

And then this buddy action comedy (featuring a very well-paired Cage and Pedro Pascal) shifts gears in its latter chase scenes to deliver some almost surprisingly warm messages about being a good father, and the rewards of friendship and making wise family choices.

In light of all that, then, the fact that this comedy also packs some ugly baggage in its self-referential trunk is disappointing. Rampant boozing and drug-taking is winked at as a reveling hoot. And the language here is consistently raw and distinctly profane. That may be ho-hum stuff for any real or fabricated Hollywood star. But it’s not so easy to laugh off for anybody with the massive talent of self-preserving discernment.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.