Review: Another Month, Another Nicolas Cage Movie That Sees the Actor Lean Into the Unhinged

Well, a month has gone by, so it’s time for a new Nicolas Cage movie. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, sometimes they’re crazy. But usually they’re bad.

The latest, Sympathy for the Devil, comes from director Yuval Adler (The Secrets We Keep, The Operative) and stars Joel Kinnaman as a man named David Chamberlain (although the credits refer to him simply as The Driver), who is on his way to the hospital where his wife is about to give birth. Just as he pulls into a parking space at the hospital, a stranger (Cage, The Passenger) jumps into his backseat and demands that David drive, brandishing a gun to make his point.

What follows is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game between the two men, with David attempting to squeeze out any information from Cage about their destination or his objective. The Passenger hints at a connection of some sort, likely way in the past, but David has no idea about it. All he wants is to deposit his hyper companion and get to his wife in the hospital, who has been calling him frantically wondering where he is. The pair stop occasionally, and usually when outsiders cross paths with them, chaos ensues. Cage picks a fight with a police officer, and before long, the officer is dead. They go to eat in a diner, and before long, a shootout occurs. Even after Cage tells David how their lives are connected, David seems to not know the events of which he’s speaking (though the audience begins to suspect he’s not being honest).

I’m not really sure what the point of Sympathy for the Devil is other than to give Cage enough runway to take off for the crazy stars. His character The Passenger is fully unhinged, and that seems to be the sweetest of Cage’s sweet spots. He’s a broken man looking not for traditional revenge, but for something like a balancing of the scales. He believes his life was cut short because of David, and now he wants to similarly pull the plug on everything worth living for in David’s life. It’s a sinking prospect, and Cage sells this man as someone capable of executing his threats. 

This is far from a great film, but Cage and Kinnaman work well together, even with this unpolished screenplay (by Luke Paradise). If you just need your Cage fix, this should suit your needs pretty well. The truth is, Cage can play unhinged in his sleep, but to see him do so with a purpose is a real treat. This one comes close to that, but not quite with enough conviction.

The film is playing in theaters.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.