Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Honoring the craziest Nicolas Cage performance almost no one’s seen

Nicolas Cage in Deadfall

Recently, we published a piece about the latest missive in an ongoing cultural debate over the value of Nicolas Cage, Actor Extraordinaire. Much like his acting, opinions on Cage’s skills tend to be outsized, in both directions. Our stance has been—and always will be—that Cage is a singular talent who makes bold, unexpected choices, and should be heralded for his commitment to delivering performances pitched to such a high frequency.

And yet, as is obvious to anyone with an internet connection, there’s one film of Cage’s that stands out above all others as the go-to example of his sometimes over-the-top theatrics, and that is The Wicker Man.

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That film, which should really just follow the example of Edge Of Tomorrow and retroactively change its name to 5 GIFs For Online Usage In Perpetuity, is continually held up as the avatar of crazy Cage performances. To that, we say, “Poppycock and balderdash!” as we adjust our monocle. See, earlier this year, A.V. Club staff writer Ignatiy Vishnavetsky pointed out a criminally under-seen movie from 1993 called Deadfall, which co-starred Cage. And this is the part where some of us may have admitted we had never seen Deadfall—an appalling confession that will never happen again, now that the film’s true magic has been revealed. Some of you have already seen this film, and you should be commended. But there are far more out there who haven’t, and it is to those poor souls we direct this public service announcement.

Deadfall tells the story—or at least, it attempts to tell the story—of Joe Donan (Michael Biehn), a con man whose partner and father is killed in a scam gone wrong. The quasi-crime-noir caper that follows involves a twin brother, stolen loot, and inexplicable card tricks; but the real prize, as seen above, is Cage’s performance. The film was directed by Christopher Coppola, Cage’s brother, which both explains the actor’s presence and also suggests the Coppola family may have some unusual family tensions. The point is, this should be the film that is used as the exemplar of Nicolas Cage’s studied madness. Compared to Deadfall, films The Wicker Man, Face/Off, and even Vampire’s Kiss look like Merchant-Ivory productions. It may be a crowded field at the top of Cage’s most entertaining performances, but this one deserves to stand above the fold, if for no other reason than that its general lack of public awareness means a retroactive popular appreciation is long overdue. To the GIF-making factory, everyone! And for those of you who have yet to bask in its glory, Deadfall is available on Showtime On Demand, DirecTV, and a variety of digital and brick-and-mortar rental sites.

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