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Cage Match Round 4 – Vengeance: A Love Story

Cage Match is an ongoing look at Nicolas Cage’s output from the last decade or so. I’m watching, reviewing and ranking all those movies that barely played in theatres or went straight to DVD. What are these movies all about? Which one is the best? There can be only one true Cage movie of note. Join me and let’s find out together!

Our fourth contender in the Cage is Vengeance: A Love Story, a 1hr 39min, 2017 action drama (mostly drama) that is based on a book.

Estimated Budget: Unknown , Gross Worldwide: $73,720

Vengeance Movie Poster

Vengeance: A Love Story Review

What’s Cage up to this time?

Cage plays John, a cop whose partner is killed in the opening moments of the film. Feeling dejected by the death of his partner, as well as the non-stop crime and violence that surrounds him, John is a shell of a man. He is given renewed purpose when he gets involved in a terrible case where a mother was gang raped in front of her 12-year-old daughter. Yep…yep that’s what this movie is about. I did not get “horrible rape movie” from the cover, which features Cage holding a huge gun while there’s an explosion behind him.

Who else is in the cage?

There’s a few other recognizable faces in this one, though mostly of the “oh! I’ve seen you in a thing!” variety.

The biggest other name I guess would be Don Johnson (Miami Vice and a ton of other stuff) as a piece of shit lawyer. The mom, Teena, is played by Anna Hutchinson who I recognized from Cabin in the Woods and we have Deborah Kara Unger as Teena’s mom who I instantly knew from the Silent Hill movie. The first Silent Hill movie. The good one.

The director is Johnny Martin who primarily did stunt work, but following this movie, looks to have specialized in directing thrillers with one word names (Hangman, Delirium, Alone, Rigged).

The screenplay was written by John Mankiewicz, who has done a ton of writing for TV, and is based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates called…oh wow…called “Rape: A Love Story.” Well, at least the movie wasn’t called that. We got that going for us.

Is the movie worthy of Cage?

This is a good time to say that I am not reading the plots for any of these movies before I watch them. I use a random number generator to pick what’s next and then I blindly toss the disc into the player and see what awaits me. As mentioned, the cover and title of this movie made me think this was a classic “Man on Fire” style story where Cage has to get brutal revenge on some deserving assholes. It’s sort of that, at least in the final 20 minutes. Mostly though, it’s a bleak courtroom drama about the aftermath of a brutal gang rape and the effect it has on everyone involved.

Once my expectations were appropriately adjusted, I actually found quite a bit to enjoy here (as much as one can “enjoy” a movie with this subject matter). The performances from Hutchinson and Talitha Eliana Bateman, who plays the daughter, are both quite good. Bateman is especially impressive and I’m happy she has had a successful career since, with roles in Annabelle: Creation and 2017’s greatest cinematic achievement – Geostorm.

The story itself is highly predictable and I imagine most viewers will be able to piece together every major plot beat very early. You’ve likely seen it all before. There’s a horrible crime, the criminals are not adequately punished for it, somebody, often Nicolas Cage, decides to take justice into their own hands. It’s a standard formula that can still work well depending on its execution. There are things here that do work, but there’s often a strong unwilliness to do anything truly unique.

Vengeance is not a movie that deals in subtlety. The villains, and there are many, are cartoonishly evil. There’s of course the four rapists who deserve whatever they get but there’s also:

  • The mom of two of them, who is almost always screaming, and is convinced there’s no way her boys would do something like this.
  • The lawyer hired to defend them (Don Johnson) who gleefully lies and blames Teena for leading them on.
  • The asshole judge, clearly friends with the asshole lawyer, who is aggressively against Teena from moment one. He makes light of her injuries and then pettily corrects John’s grammar when he takes the witness stand.

There’s actually too many people to hate in this movie. It gets exhausting. None of them have any conflicting feelings or emotions about anything that’s happening. They’re all just awful fucking people from start to finish. It does make you excited for the whole “vengeance” part to kick in but that makes up a very small part of the run time.

John does eventually decide it’s time to do things his own way but it’s not until the final act and even then, it’s not the focus. I do appreciate his efficiency in dispatching his victims (the first kill is so sudden I had to laugh) but it’s not the crescendo I was hoping for after so much build-up. The John stuff almost feels like it was shoe-horned into another script. It’s like they had a courtroom drama script and someone said “have Nic Cage shoot some dudes in this and we’ll make the movie” and here we are.

How Cage-y is Cage?

Not at all. He does have some unfortunate bad hair dye, but overall he is very subdued here, which in fairness fits with the character. Even when it gets to the titular vengeance, he keeps it calm and collected. I don’t think he ever raises his voice above monotone. It’s a fine performance, and again it makes sense with the context of the movie’s tone, but it does keep things a little low energy.

Should you get into this cage?

If you’re expecting vengeance, or a love story, or both, you will be disappointed. It’s not an easy watch but there’s some merit here. Cage is a minor presence in the whole thing but there’s some engaging lead performances and some satisfying murder.

Where does it rank?

This is already starting to get a little tough. I think Vengeance and Arsenal are currently in battle for the top spot. I think…I think I have to give the slight edge to Arsenal. Vengeance is the better movie, but I got more personal enjoyment out of Arsenal and damn it, this is my list after all.

As it stands:

Vengeance: A Love Story
Left Behind

Vengeance: A Love Story movie trailer


rape, sexual assault, trauma

Published inMovie Reviews

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