Nicholas Cage, the enigmatic actor known for his over-the-top performances, is a love-it-or-hate-it figure in Hollywood. Luckily, I count myself among those who typically appreciate his eccentric style, but I can absolutely understand those who find him obnoxious. His film choices can be hit or miss, and his latest venture, Sympathy for the Devil, is a mixed bag.
In this thriller from Israeli director Yuval Adler, we take a wild ride with David Chamberlain (Joel Kinnaman). As David attempts to join his pregnant wife at the hospital labor ward, his life takes a sinister turn when an unexpected passenger (Nicholas Cage) hijacks his car at gunpoint. The story quickly descends into a cat-and-mouse situation with a lot of back-and-forth between the two characters.
The film's central issue lies in the stark contrast between David and the passenger. David comes off as a grounded character in a realistically styled film, while the passenger feels like a cartoon villain, dressed in a red suit with bright red hair. The over-the-top performances from Cage further exacerbate the feeling that he's in an entirely different movie altogether.
Unfortunately, the lack of chemistry between the two leads doesn't help matters. Kinnaman's portrayal falls flat, failing to bring anything interesting to the table during the film's dialogue-heavy sequences with Cage.
The plot also suffers from being a bit meandering, making it hard for the audience to fully engage with the story. It felt like the plot never really moved along or evolved in any kind of dynamic way and instead tried to create more of a sense of mystery surrounding the passenger that needed to be peeled back as time moved on. However, after a couple underwhelming twists and turns, I felt like the answer I got wasn’t all that shocking, making the overall narrative arc fall pretty flat.
On the positive side of things, there is a notable diner scene in the latter half of the film that does manage to deliver on the promise of more action-filled sequences. As the tension escalates, the narrative begins to find its footing, aligning better with the grandiose performances delivered by Cage.
Sympathy for the Devil aims to deliver a thrilling experience, but it mostly falls short across the board. While Cage's bombastic performance is entertaining at times, it can't rescue the film from its overall static storytelling. It's certainly not the worst film in Cage's repertoire, but with his prolific output, that's hardly a high bar to clear.