Hammy, silly and devoid of much by way of quality, Stolen asks a little too much of us in terms of forgiveness.
Nicholas Cage has done some hum-dingers in his time, and here he dusts off both of his expressions for Simon West's inexcusably droll actioner, “Stolen”. It's the first time the pair have teamed up since Con Air, but don't let their legacy fool you, this is a shambles in every way. It's a lesson in how not to do action movies, boasting a terrible script, dull screenplay, characters that, when they're not accidentally being funny, are instantly forgettable, and Nicholas Cage being Nicholas Cage.
It's about a master thief called Will Montgomery (Cage) who, after serving an 8 year stretch in jail, decides his thieving days are done. He plans to rebuild his relationship with his daughter and go straight, but things take a turn for the worse when a former colleague wages a vendetta against him. Vincent (Josh Lucas), kidnaps Will's daughter and demands the money that he believes Will stashed on their final heist together. Forced to do another robbery in order to obtain the money that Vincent is demanding, Will finds himself right back where he started, planning a robbery of a bank in order to free his daughter from the clutches of the evil antagonist.
I'm just going to stop with the synopsis right there, it doesn't improve. It's formulaic and boring, and is no more than a vehicle for the arduous and mundane action sequences that pepper the film throughout. I know what you're thinking – I clearly had my expectations far too high – and you'd be right in this instance. Had I expected a moronic, lifeless, cheesy, uninteresting, bland, utterly forgettable explosion-fest, then I might well have enjoyed myself – but I can assure you, it's not like I was expecting a “Ronin” or “Heat”. No, I knew exactly what I was getting into here, and I'm afraid it was a huge disappointment. I felt bemused and almost betrayed that this was considered passable from a director with as much experience as Simon West has in his locker, especially within the action genre. It felt like a cheap, putting the band back together moment for a one off tour.
I'm not alone either. It seems that the general reception from the public was that of bewildered disappointment too. The film was pulled from theatres after a mere two week run in which it took a staggeringly low $304,318 in the U.S. In fact, this reception has been pretty consistent on a global scale, with the movie pulling a very disappointing $2.1m worldwide. When you consider that the movie's budget was a modest $35m, to recoup such an incredibly low percentage of that is nothing short of a catastrophic failure.
So where are the problems?
The first thing that hits you is the music. Dear lord above spare me from the cheesy crud of thematic drivel. It's one of the worst scores I've ever heard. The main theme with which the movie opens sounds like it sampled one of those casio keyboards for the guitar sounds. It drives into your head in the worse way possible. It made me wonder if there was anything on my sound system lower than mute.
That aside, as I said, the script is poor. Even though the requirements for the script were hardly overwhelming, what we end up with is teeth-gritting nonsense.
But there's something to be said for the old adage that your script is only as good as the actors reading it, and between Nicholas Cage and Josh Lucas, it's fair to say that there's barely a sniff of quality on show here. Cage is stiff and wooden, his dialogue is woofed out in slow, drawn out, breathy sentences. It's as if he's worried he's going to move his lips too fast for his tongue to keep up and everything's going to come out as one long vowel. I don't really get Nicholas Cage at the best of times - I find that he always looks like he's acting; always trying not to look at the camera. I also think he looks as though he periodically forgets who his character is, and to counter that, he's pretty much the same character in everything – no need to remember who your character is if it's the same one in every movie. He's made a career out of acting like Nicholas Cage. Here, he takes that to all new levels.
Joining the script at the back of the class is the screenplay which is like some archaic tome of utter action drivel. The character development is non-existent. The movie's achilles heel lies in the fact that in order to squeeze the tiniest morsel of enjoyment out of this movie, you have to invest in the fact that the main protagonist cares about his kidnapped daughter, but I'm afraid I found this relationship one of the least convincing of all the relationships on show. It's as if Cage and Sami Gayle, who plays his daughter (and happens to bear a striking resemblance to a very young Anne Hathaway), met for the first time literally seconds before they began shooting. There's just no depth or believability to their relationship at all.
Then there's Vincent (Josh Lucas), who's character seems to be modelled on every evil villain in every action movie ever made, but with a twist – he lost his leg and blames Montgomery for that. I just don't even really know where to begin. Rather amusingly, it's as if Lucas had been misinformed and turned up on set thinking he was acting in a comedy spoof action movie, barking out his lines through gritted teeth and ludicrous hair. The best way to describe Vincent is that he's ridiculous. Lucas is not completely awful, but his character really is. The script recipe is a total doughy mess.
Throw into the mix a couple of default police characters who seem to have nothing better to do than to try and make Will Montgomery's life hell now that he's out of jail. Danny Huston is the slight saving grace for this element of the movie, but even here he struggles to do much with the vacuous and terribly ineffectual detective role thrust upon him, tending to look more surprised by everything going on than you might expect from a seasoned detective or... whatever he is.
Perhaps the most convincing and believable character in the entire movie is Riley. Played rather honestly by Malin Akerman (Watchmen, Wanderlust). She doesn't overdo it and to her credit, completely plays Cage off the stage. Had she been the main protagonist of the picture, we would have been in a much better place.
I guess if you're prepared to lower your standards enough there's probably some enjoyment to be had in here. Perhaps the amusement of seeing Nicholas Cage trying to run is reward enough in some cases – there are moments when after a mere two or three steps his grimmace betrays the fact that he's far too old to be an action star. Only pairing him up with Tom Cruise, who happens to be the best at running in all of Hollywood, would show him up for his inability to run even more.
So it's a pretty huge disappointment on the whole in every respect, though I'm under no illusions that some will in fact enjoy this for what it is – a throwaway action flick that you genuinely needen't care about. For me, that's a little too much of a cop out – I don't see why a film being poor should be forgivable in any way, especially with the excuse that you don't have to care about it. I want to care about my movies. I invest my time and concentration in them, and I expect a little something back. Sadly, with Stolen, I feel my time could have been much better spent doing, well, anything at all really. Do yourself a favour and re-watch Ronin or Heat instead.
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